Greg Casteel grew up in the logging industry. The business was synonymous with his native Oregon, However, in the late 1970s, the Oregon logging industry was affected by a number of issues, including the protection of the spotted owl. Large sections of forests were protected by the government Logging companies were seriously affected. Casteel saw the handwriting on the watt, “I just did not think that the business could continue to support my family,” he says. “I needed to look for a new opportunity.”
Casteel had restored an old Bentley and was receiving interest from people who wanted to rent the vehicle for weddings. He later added a “terrible old stretch limousine.” In 1979, Prestige Limousines was born.
“The business developed so quickly that I became extremely involved in it,” says Casteel “My company grew to almost 20 vehicles.”
Casteel has since partnered with Carey International “Carey is a great company,” he says “We have done very well.”
Prestige Transportation Group/Carey Portland became a model for mid-sized limousine companies Casteel has implemented innovative chauffeur training programs, is quick to address chest concerns, and provides clean, well maintained vehicles. He was named LCT Operator of the Year (medium category) in 1993 and was a finalist for the award in 1998.
As Prestige grew, Casteel became active in the National Limousine Association (NLA). He initially served as a director. He recently finished serving a two-year term as president.
“I came on board with the NLA after people like George Jacobs and Kay Hoskins had worked with executive director Wayne Smith to establish a foothold,” says Casteel. “The next generation of board members will be able to use the organization to help resolve issues and bring an even higher level of professionalism to the business.”
Casteel is proud of the NLA’s growth. “We went from a nearly bankrupt organization 10 years ago to an effective national trade organization with a significant treasury to fight the issues of the future, such as the Gas Guzzler Tax,” he says. “We have accomplished this with member dues of less than one-third of the average cost of national association dues. We have never lost sight of the fact that the majority of our members are small operators.”
Casteel believes the consolidation of the limousine industry is a positive trend. “Our industry is ripe for consolidation,” he says. “My neighbor owns Hollywood Video. Less than 10 years ago, he and his wife operated three small stores in a cottage industry similar to ours. Now they have a multi-million-dollar company that is second only to Blockbuster I am thrilled that Carey and Coach USA are out there. They have added value to my company and have provided possible business opportunities for operators of all sizes. The small operator will always exist because we are in the service business. Do Marriott and Sheraton own every hotel? There is always room for the little guy.”
Casteel’s greatest accomplishment is a work in progress — The Chauffeured Transportation Certification Program — introduced at the 1998 LCT Show in Las Vegas. Casteel and company president Leslie Thornton formed Pinnacle Performance Systems. In the first four months following the show they have visited operators in 28 cities.
“The response to this program is three times what I expected,” says Casteel. “Operator certification is elevating the public’s perception of our industry and rewards quality companies.”
With all that has transpired throughout Casteel’s business career, he has truly enjoyed the limousine industry. “One of my best friends is John Case, who happens to be a competitor in my home town,” he says. “He is a classy individual. He has integrity — a valuable attribute in a competitor. The limousine business has been so enjoyable for me because of the respect and friendship that I have established with my colleagues and the people I work with every day.”