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Ambassador Limousine’s Ken Lucci has put together a meticulous and thorough plan for a chauffeured fleet numbering 100 vehicles during the week of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. The RNC will be held at the Tampa Convention Center in downtown, with nominee Mitt Romney’s Aug. 30 acceptance speech at the nearby Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Operators in Charlotte, N.C., and Tampa, Fla., are seeing one of the few examples of bipartisanship this election year. Democrats and Republicans in about equal numbers are taking over those respective host cities and will be paying premium rates to get around to all the parties and hotels.
Charlotte hosts the Democratic National Convention Sept. 4-6, while Tampa hosts the Republican National Convention Aug. 27-30. Overall, about 35,000 to 40,000 delegates, attendees and media people converge during convention weeks. For chauffeured transportation operators, these massive pep rallies and campaign launch parties qualify as Super Bowls on steroids. The logistics, planning, troubleshooting, pricing, and fleet volume involved supersede the challenges of any business opportunity out there.
In the months leading up to political conventions, operators prepare for a once-in-a-career challenge that afterwards leaves them feeling ready to handle anything.
“This is Super Bowl times five,” says Ken Lucci, CEO of Ambassador Limousine in Clearwater, Fla. “It’s like an event with 40,000 brides. Everyone thinks they are important. You can’t say no to a guy going to a delegation party. There is no such thing as ‘You are not on the list.’ The next word is, ‘Do you know who I am?’”
Lucci’s company is running about 150 vehicles that week: 50 fleet and 100 affiliate and rented chauffeured vehicles of all types. One of his major clients is the corporate contingent from AT&T. “This is definitely a logistical challenge,” Lucci says. “You don’t know as much as far as routes yet and what will pop up. We are anticipating everything we possibly can.”
Several hundred miles to the north in Charlotte, Lucci’s affiliate, Rose Chauffeured Transportation, reported being just about fully booked by mid-June. Rose is running 100 fleet, affiliate and rented vehicles, including 15 of Ambassador’s SUVs that will handle VIP clients.
“It’s all hands on deck to manage this thing,” says Rose vice president Andy Thompson. “I foresee that we will have instances where dispatchers will be in charge of certain segments of the fleet and types of vehicles. You do as many dry runs of events as you can beforehand.”
Operator Jeff Canady of CLT Express in Charlotte, N.C., is working with his wife and co-owner, Laura, to prepare for all scenarios during the Democratic National Convention Sept. 4-6 being held at the Time Warner Arena. Those scenarios include having an on-call mechanic near the airport and an on-call I.T. staffer in case a server goes down or a storm hits. Operators working the national political conventions must expect the unexpected.
Laura and Jeff Canady, who own and operate CLT Express in Charlotte and SC Express in nearby Aiken, S.C., pointed out that the role of the limousine industry is more oriented toward serving corporate clients, non-delegates, celebrities, VIPs, and sports figures, adding that many private flights that week are arriving from Los Angeles. The DNC itself arranges most of the motorcoach transportation for delegates and party officials shuttling between convention centers and hotels.
By working previous NASCAR, NRA, and Masters Golf Tournament events, the Canadys know how to prepare their 40-vehicle fleet plus affiliate vehicles for the 100-per-day runs expected during the week of the convention.
“We’re making sure the office staff is clearly communicating and we are staying on top of things,” says Laura Canady, also a board director of the National Limousine Association. “Our staff will be here for 24 hours.”