Rodeo time in Texas again

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So I’m here in San Antonio for the eighth annual Rush Truck Center (RTC) Technician Skills Rodeo, where 100 of the company’s 2,000 technicians are competing for cash, prizes, hourly pay raises, trophies and belt buckles, plus (of course) serious bragging rights.

It’s a pretty impressive sight, too, this technician rodeo, as it takes up several thousand square feet of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in downtown San Antonio with nearly 30 trucks on site just for the testing alone and not including the vehicles brought in as part of the supplier expo attached to this year’s event.

Rush is also using this event as a way to help bring many of its newly acquired locations more strongly into the RTC’s way of doing business, Mike Besson, VP of dealer operations and customer care, told me.

“I went to the general managers at some of our newly acquired dealerships and said, ‘Look, send me the best guys you have down to the Rodeo; the top guys in the shop.’ Because these are the guys who will go back and tell everyone that what we’re actually doing at this event is exactly what we’ve told them we’re doing,” he said.

Indeed, Rush has been on something of a growth spurt of late, expanding out of its traditional western and southeastern markets into the Midwest. Back on July 29, for example, Rush acquired Midwest Truck Sales and now operates from locations in St. Louis and St. Peters, MO, plus Olathe, KS, providing support for International, Hino, Isuzu and Mitsubishi Fuso trucks.

Then in September, Rush picked up TransAuthority and now operates full service International dealerships in Richmond and Suffolk, VA, plus parts and service locations in Fredericksburg and Chester, VA. Those two acquisitions also expanded Rush Truck Leasing's capabilities with Idealease franchises in St. Peters, MO, plus Richmond and Norfolk, VA.

When complete, those and other impending acquisitions will boost RTC’s footprint to 106 locations in 20 states. "These acquisitions provide us with significant presence in the Midwestern United States and Virginia markets, where we had not previously operated,” noted W.M. "Rusty" Rush, chairman, CEO and president of RTC’s parent company, Rush Enterprises, in the firm’s third quarter earnings report released back in October.

“More importantly, they will expand our service network to provide coverage along highways that run from the Midwestern to the eastern U.S., allowing us to serve trucking companies operating in these specific regions as well as those whose operations route through these states to other destinations,” he said, adding that Rush plans to continue investing in its existing facilities and markets as well.

Besson added that RTC’s annual Technician Skills Rodeo is going to keep expanding as well, but not just to reflect ongoing company growth either.

“This year we added four ‘specialty divisions,’ one of which being body and paint,” he said. “Next year I am trying to figure out how to work our parts guys into this competition. Because, really when you look at it, it’s not just the technicians working by themselves – they work hand-in-hand with parts, with paint and body repair specialists, the whole works. So my goal for this competition is to see how we can integrate all those different disciples together, because that reflects how the service side of a dealership really works.”

A neat concept; it’ll be interesting to see how it all comes together when the Rodeo returns in 2014.

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