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NLA Marks 30 Years of Industry Service and Support

Posted on February 20, 2015 by Tom Halligan - Also by this author

In 1985, Microsoft released Windows 1.0, the first artificial heart transplant was a success, “New” Coke was unveiled, and the hit movie “Back to the Future” featured the cool DeLorean with its gull-winged doors and powered by the ‘Flux Capacitor” — a contraption that propelled the car back in time.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the National Limousine Association, and since we can’t physically go back in time in a DeLorean, we did the next best thing and recapped some of the NLA’s highlights and milestones and talked to the pioneers and board members who advanced the association through three decades of serving the interests of domestic and global operators.

On Jan. 25, 1985 — five days after Ronald Reagan’s second term inauguration — representatives of 35 limousine companies and local limousine associations from around the nation met in Washington, D.C. and founded the NLA with the goal to represent and further the interests of operators. Two years later at the association’s annual meeting, NLA bylaws were adopted, setting forth the formal infrastructure of the association and its committees.

Over the years, the NLA has grown stronger as the voice of the industry to fight legislative battles and to elevate the industry’s professionalism and integrity. In addition, the NLA supports its membership through education programs, events, recognition awards, charitable causes, and financial support of member associations, among many other initiatives.

Its success has never been more evident than by the record number of operators (21) who ran for election to join the 2015 board. The growing interest among operators who want to serve the NLA says volumes about its influence and prestige. NLA board directors who are non-paid volunteers have given their time, money, and often their heart and soul to elevate the industry over the years, paving the way for new generations of operators to succeed in the private transportation business.

At the International LCT Show in Las Vegas March 16-18, the NLA will celebrate its 30-year anniversary by hosting a reunion of past presidents and board members. Here are some comments from past and present board members who share their memories and thoughts about the NLA.

George Jacobs
Windy City Limousine, Chicago, Ill.
NLA President 1990-1992; 1994
“When I became vice president and then president, my goal was to bring decorum to the meetings, which could be raucous at times. We always dealt with volatile topics, but we started to handle discussions in a more professional manner — less yelling — by way of voting and a show of hands to continue discussions and addressing the chair when speaking, which made meetings much better through the years.
When I look at the past and where the NLA is now, the leadership is working hard and belonging to the association is a must. I don’t see how an operator can exist in this industry without belonging to the NLA — it’s mission critical. It gives you so many opportunities. You get to network with people to help you grow your business. It is fabulous that 21 operators are running for the board this year. That makes my heart sing. There were years we had to beg people to run … this is wonderful.”

Barbara Chirico
Gem Limousine Worldwide, Woodbridge, N.J.
NLA President, 2001
“The year was 1985, gas was $1.09 a gallon, and I was in business for nine years with about five vehicles and working out of my kitchen. I remember going to the first show in Atlantic City, meeting many limousine operators who were just like me and didn’t have a lot of answers. I knew back then the industry needed one voice, so in 1985 I joined the NLA knowing they would lead the way. The NLA was very instrumental in helping to legitimize the livery industry.
The years passed and the industry was on a roller-coaster ride — issue after issue — regulations on top of regulations. It didn’t matter where you were in the country. We all shared similar problems and concerns. The NLA’s board was always there, ready and willing to help its members. I became a board member and served for six years. I would personally like to thank each and every board member who has ever served on the NLA board for giving so much of their time and effort to our industry. Where would we be today if it wasn’t for the NLA?”

Scott Solombrino
Boston Coach/Dav El Chauffeured Transportation Network, Boston, Mass.
President: 2001-2005
“As one of the six original founders of the NLA I am extraordinarily proud off all the accomplishments as members that we have had for the advancement of our entire industry throughout the last 30 years and fought and won numerous regulatory battles and have proved the adage that we are stronger together than as individuals.”

NLA Executive Directors
1986-1987: Cynthia Littlefield; 1987-1999: Wayne Smith; 1999-2000: Bob Scott; 2000-2001: Darold Giles; 2001: Bruce Cottew; 2001-2003: Tom Mazza; 2003-2007: Fran Shane; 2007-2012: Patricia Nelson; 2012-Present: Philip S. Jagiela

Diane Forgy
Overland Chauffeured Services, Kansas City
President: 2010-2013
“It has been such a privilege being an NLA Board Director and serving the members and industry for nearly 12 years. Prior to serving three years as NLA President, I also served two years each as treasurer and first vice president so I have a lot of history and memories along the way.

When I first joined the board in 2003, the NLA barely had $100,000 in the bank and around 900 members. We now have well over $1.3 million in assets and 2000-plus members. We have maintained very steady management practices, increased revenue substantially through our sponsorship programs and shows, provided enhanced education and most importantly magnified our presence and influence in Washington D.C. 

Our biggest legislative victory came with the passage of the RIDE Act. But I feel our success with the Department of Labor to avoid overtime exposure on tip income was our most significant regulatory accomplishment. We also had many local victories helping local associations defend the RIDE Act, avoid unruly airport regulations and even successfully negotiated a much lower fee for D.C, Virginia and Maryland operators during the 2013 Inauguration. 

There have been so many outstanding individuals who have served on the board and contributed so much of their time and energy to make the NLA successful. I will cherish my time, friendship and working relationships with everyone, but Some are no longer with us: Julie Herring, Carla Boroday and Joe Ciruzzo. We have also lost two past executive directors, Tom Mazza and Fran Shane.”

Cheryl Berkman
Music Express, Los Angeles
Past Board Director
“All of us at Music Express wou like to congratulate the NLA on a job well done for the past 30 years. We especially would like to thank the past, present and future board members for all of their hard work and dedication to our industry. On a personal note, I would like to thank the NLA for reaching out and helping others through the Harold Berkman Memorial Fund. The Berkman family and everyone at Music Express thank you for the 30 years and we look forward to the next 30.”

Gary Buffo
Pure Luxury Transportation, Petaluma, Calif.
President, 2013-Present
“I feel honored every day to be in the position of NLA President knowing that I fill the shoes of so many incredible past presidents, who all work very diligently to protect our members and their business interests, in this extremely fragile industry. I salute all of those who have served on the NLA board to represent their regional NLA member constituents. We are the strongest business association in our industry, and I am very proud of our membership for entrusting their continued support to the NLA. It’s all about the members.”

Patricia Nelson
NLA Executive Director, 2007-2012
“When I started working as NLA deputy executive director in January 2005, the NLA was just turning 20 years old. While certainly not a youngster, it wasn’t quite fully grown either. But that changed for sure, and during the eight years of my tenure, the last six as NLA executive director until my retirement in December 2012, I’d say that the NLA came of age. Most importantly, the NLA became a truly professional trade organization. First, its leaders, namely presidents Scott Solombrino, Jeff Greene, Richard Kane, Ron Sorci and Diane Forgy, brought their professionalism and experience running successful companies to the forefront. They were backed by many top-notch board members and volunteers from throughout the member ranks, and I am proud to say, an extremely dedicated, hardworking and association-savvy staff who took on one new endeavor after another and got it all to click.”

Ty F. Bobit
President & CEO
Bobit Business Media
“Congratulations to the NLA on achieving its 30th anniversary! I remember the initial formation of the association that took place at our very first trade show in Atlantic City in 1984. The NLA has done so much to help limousine operators on a personal, national and local basis. We applaud the association for educating operators to be more professional and successful, for addressing regulatory and legal issues on all fronts, and for creating an atmosphere of camaraderie amongst the industry. The NLA and LCT have had a great partnership over the years because we both share the same core values of bettering the industry.”

Through the Years...

1985 NLA was formed in Washington, D.C.
1996 NLA Charitable Fund established; added international position to its board
1997 *Harold Berkman Memorial Fund started
2001 Entered administrative management contract with Bobit Business Media
2003 NLA started Day On The Hill lobbying event in Washington, D.C.
2003 NLA/LCT Show Scholarship program launched
2004 Political Action Committee formed
2005 NLA, LCT Magazine and Limo Digest magazine launch Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund and raise $37,500 to help victims
2006 NLA sought Congressional support for relief from tightening airport regulations on operators
2009 NLA hires Cornerstone Government Affairs as its lobbying firm
2012 NLA achieves biggest victory to date with favorable ruling from the U.S. Dept. of Labor on chauffeur gratuities and overtime policies
2014 NLA hires professional public relations firm

NLA Presidents
1985 Cris Portugal – Washington, D.C.
1986 Cris Portugal – Washington, D.C.
1987 Ken Avery – Florida
1988 Ronald Thomas – New York
1989 Charles Tenney – Texas
1990 George Jacobs – Illinois
1991 George Jacobs – Illinois
1992 George Jacobs – Illinois
1993 Charles Wisniewski – Connecticut
1994 George Jacobs – Illinois
1995 Harold Berkman – California
1996 Greg Casteel – Oregon
1997 Greg Casteel – Oregon
1998 Marion McCormack – Texas
1999 Alan Melton – Florida
2000 Darryl Norman – North Carolina
2001 Barbara (Pastelak) Chirico – New Jersey
2002 Scott Solombrino – Massachusetts
2003 Scott Solombrino – Massachusetts
2004 Scott Solombrino – Massachusetts
2005 Scott Solombrino – Massachusetts
2006 Jeff Greene – Georgia
2007 Jeff Greene – Georgia
2008 Richard Kane – Washington, D.C.
2009 Ron Sorci – Florida
2010 Diane Forgy – Kansas
2011 Diane Forgy – Kansas
2012 Diane Forgy – Kansas
2013 Gary Buffo – California
2014 Gary Buffo – California

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