October 6, 2008

How the NFL and Dell Thrust Montoursville Business into the National Spotlight

By Nardone, Ralph

Transport Designs Inc., located in Montoursville, Lycoming County, earned national recognition in June for meshing customer service with the latest in information technology.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and Dell, the global computer and information systems company, bestowed their "Small Business Excellence Award" to the northeast Pennsylvania- bawd custom truck, trailer and motorhome manufacturer.

Owners, presidents or CEOs of companies with 100 employees or less qualify for the award. Judges look at how they use the latest technologies to drive a significant change or develop a competitive advantage in delivering superior customer value and experience.

Steve Mattie, founder and president of Transport Designs, says he was "quite a bit surprised" when he was notified, especially since he remembers a time when he saw little use for computers.

Now his company uses custom software and AutoCAD, combined with Adobe Acrobat Professional and digital photography to share highly- detailed designs and floor plans with customers before and throughout the enure motor hone and trailer construction process.

"We'll customize the floor plan to specific needs," Mattie says. The customer starts the product design on a clean slate and can determine where to put a shower, bed, or kitchenette, for example, and how much space is allocated to each feature. "They get exactly what they want," he adds.

Mattie says Transport Designs rises above the competition in the materials they choose. Motorhome buyers have very exclusive tastes - desiring cabinets made from zebrawood or African-striped mahogany. Other companies may offer flexible floor plans, but limit their materials, he adds.

Recently, Leonard Davis, a lineman for the Dallas Cowboys, endorsed Transport Designs after his experience purchasing one of their custom-made motorhomes.

"You can imagine what it would be like to build something for a 6- foot 6 inch, 335-pound lineman," Mattie says.

Transport Designs met the challenge.

Davis loved his motorhome so much he asked if he could be associated with the company. With his endorsement and the NFIB/Dell award hitting at the same time, Mattie foresees a flood of new business opportunities. He said it must be "God's providence."

Almost half of all manufacturing dollars at Transport Designs come from the customized motor home market. The company also makes custom trucks for businesses that need vehicles to trans-port or sell theft products. Mattie expects the custom motor home business to become the primary revenue generator within the next year.

He also expects future business growth resulting from what he calls "incredible public relations" associated with the recent accolades.

Over the years, Mattie says, word of mouth has been the company's key marketing tool. Since super-custom trucks or motorhomes are not products for the general public due to expense, traditional marketing methods were not the best way to generate sales. More sales resulted when satisfied customers told five friends.

As part of the NFIB award, Mattie receives his choice of $25,000 worth of Dell products. Dell also committed to providing service support that Mattie feels will be valuable in promoting his business on a global scale.

Dell-provided laptops enable the commpany to share digitalized floor plans and real-time construction progress.

Dell public relations staff have requested company promotional materials to highlight Transport Designs' products in various venues.

NFIB highlighted Transport Designs' ability to "break the mold" during the award ceremony held in Washington, D.C.

NFIB pointed out that the product opportunities for Transport Designs are vast. Everything from restaurants on wheels to transportable fitness centers to individualized motor homes will require the latest in software design.

At that ceremony Mattie stressed the effectiveness of the new technology.

"When you are trying to sell a six-figure product - sight unseen - to a customer living in Australia, technology is the only means for communication, negotiation and building trust," Martie said at the ceremony.

Dr. Ayman El Tarabishy, executive director for the International Council for Small Business (www.ICSB.org) and assistant professor at the George Washington University served as an award judge.

He said Transport Design proved how they want to stay at the top of their industry in an elite rank. The judges saw the way the manufacturer strives to maintain its competitive advantage and increase market share through customer loyalty.

Copyright Northeast Pennsylvania Business Journal Sep 2008

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