Rising East Coast Markets Pack Potential For Operators

Martin Romjue and Lexi Tucker
Posted on November 8, 2018

When you look at city rankings across multiple sources and benchmarks, you derive a broader view of those markets that carry more potential for luxury ground transportation business.

For this year’s East Show issue, we looked at how cities in the Eastern U.S. stacked up, based on population, economies, growth, meetings, and visitors. Getting beyond the obvious eternal mega-markets like New York, Washington, Boston, and Miami, we chose vibrant cities on the lists with rising appeal, and then asked operators in these areas for an on-the-ground view of what’s driving their business.

The five “top” most interesting and up-and-coming Eastern markets based on a cross-section of picks below are: Atlanta, Philadelphia, Orlando, Raleigh, N.C., and Richmond, Va.

America’s Fastest-Growing Cities (2018)

Forbes looked at growth of population, employment, wages, and economic output to compile a list of the fastest-growing cities in America this year. Out of the 25 metro areas experiencing the biggest overall surges, 10 East Coast cities made the list. 

  1. Orlando, Kissimmee, and Sanford, Fla.
  2. Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Fla.
  3. West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Fla.
  4. North Port, Sarasota-Bradenton, Fla.
  5. Lakeland, Winter Haven, Fla.
  6. Raleigh, N.C.
  7. Jacksonville, Fla.
  8. Charlotte, Concord, Gastonia, N.C. and S.C.
  9. Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, Deerfield Beach, Fla.
  10. Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Fla.

Source: Forbes

The 10 Big U.S. Cities With the Fastest-Growing Economies (2017)

Economies are built by buying, selling, and people working to pay their bills. Employment growth can be seen in the cities and areas immediately surrounding them listed below. Of the 10 cities mentioned, these are where the East Coast cities fell on the list.

  1. Orlando, Fla.
  2. Charlotte, N.C.
  3. Raleigh, N.C.
  4. Jacksonville, Fla.

Source: Forbes

The Most Visited Cities In The US (2018)

These popular U.S. cities are known for their unique attractions, dynamic nightlife scenes, cosmopolitan natures, and attractive shopping destinations. This is where East Coast cities ranked on the list.

  1. New York, N.Y. - 59.7 million visitors
  2. Atlanta, Ga. - 51 million visitors
  3. Orlando, Fla. - 48 million visitors
  4. Philadelphia, Pa. - 42 million visitors

Source: World Atlas

Top Destinations in the Eastern United States (2018)

These are some of the most popular destinations for tourists on the East Coast.

  • New York City
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Boston, Mass.
  • Philadelphia, Pa.
  • Baltimore, Md.
  • Richmond, Va.
  • Asheville, N.C.
  • Savannah, Ga.
  • Charleston, S.C.
  • Atlanta, Ga.

Source: Trip Savvy


Emerging Destinations For Meetings (2018)

These two cities are East Coast choices for domestic cities benefiting from a newfound popularity among U.S. and international corporate meeting planners.

  • Asheville, N.C.
  • Richmond, Va.

Source: The Meeting Magazines


Mike Barreto, COO, Eagle Chauffeured Services

Mike Barreto, COO, Eagle Chauffeured Services

Mike Barreto, COO, Eagle Chauffeured Services

Because of the reduction of the number of operators in the industry, Barreto says he’s been able to capture more new business. “It’s about leveraging yourself and being available. We live in a world where everyone wants something right away. They don’t want to have to plan for it; if you’re not preparing yourself to be near- or on-demand, you’re going to limit yourself on your ability to get more business, especially in the mid-Atlantic region of the US,” he explains.

There’s a huge push in class one cities like Philadelphia for millennials and multi-generational types to move back to the city. In the early 80’s and 90’s, there was a rush for people to get out of the city and go for the house with the white picket fence. “Now, because people have devalued that kind of debt and responsibility, they want to live more with less,” Barreto says.

Another big driver of economics in the region is the efficiency of the transportation infrastructure. “From Boston to DC, you have railways, subway lines, and transit systems that are far superior to that of anywhere else in the US.”

According to him, no one should walk down a path and neglect to look under the smallest of rocks, because even they can reveal the biggest gem you’ve ever seen. “There are a lot of markets for us to easily transition into. We are now in direct competition with TNCs for point to point trips with a stay at home mom in her Toyota Corolla. You’re dealing with massive amounts of people that have adopted and heralded Uber and Lyft because of their accessibility and ease of use. The easiest way for us to compete is to unify what’s left of this industry. We should never worry about completion from our competitors; we should worry about gaining support from them.”

“We need to look at the way we do business amongst each other. The only difference is our relationships with our clients. We either play nice now, or there will be nothing left to play with.

Johnny Donohoe, president, Sterling Limousine & Transportation Services

Johnny Donohoe, president, Sterling Limousine & Transportation Services

Johnny Donohoe, president, Sterling Limousine & Transportation Services

Donohoe says the area is as strong as it’s ever been, but he’s seen a large uptick in group transportation in addition to high-end C level executive transportation. “There’s been a good deal of mergers and acquisitions, which in turn has reduced the number of options and supply available to the customer. We’ve been capitalizing on that by increasing our rates across the board.”

Philadelphia has become a hotbed for restaurants created by high-named, prolific chefs, and a lot of new hotels are being built. New groups and events are selecting Philadelphia as their destination more so than ever. “The city itself has done a phenomenal job with development, specifically with the Philadelphia Navy Yard. They’re trying to mimic what Baltimore has done with the inner harbor, making it a destination. Several years ago, the Navy Yard didn’t house anything, but now it houses some major Fortune 500 companies and hotels.”

Meetings and events for large groups have been the biggest economic driver of the region. “We hear a consistent complaint about the lack of consistency and transparency from companies they are used to using. Be 100% truthful to the group leader or DMC. Don’t call them five minutes after pick up time to let them know you’re going to be late; that call needs to happen the moment dispatch knows there’s a potential for a late pick up. The chauffeur might actually get there on time, but it helps the overall relationship.”

Another big avenue he’s seen a large increase in is employee shuttles. “A lot of these companies want to release liability from themselves and let professionals handle it. It’s consistent work, and you know what your expenditures and profits will be. It’s constant work for your chauffeurs as well. Our mid-size vehicles between vans and mini buses get a lot of work done. Just do your due diligence to make sure it’s profitable.”


Chad Casey, owner and president, Casey Corporate Transportation

Chad Casey, owner and president, Casey Corporate Transportation

Chad Casey, owner and president, Casey Corporate Transportation

During the past few years, the movie industry has grown a great deal in the Atlanta area, Casey says. In 2017, Georgia was the number one movie producing state in the nation. “The studios just keep building.” In addition to this, sports also generate a lot of good business. “With our new Mercedes-Benz Stadium we had the college football playoffs this year. We’ve got the Super Bowl in 2019 and in 2020 we have the Final Four, so there are a lot of large sporting events that bring in outside clientele.” Atlanta is also one of the top convention cities in the nation. It’s very tax friendly for business, which has led to it to become one of the finalists for Amazon’s second headquarters. The new companies and conventions that have come in have been driving forces of the area’s economic growth, because they always need transportation. "I’d suggest joining and actively participating in the Greater Atlanta Limousine Association (GALA) to get to know your fellow operators so you can earn business through them. There are always opportunities to promote and grow your company,” he says.

Tammy Carlisle, co-owner, Action Worldwide Chauffeured Services

Tammy Carlisle, co-owner, Action Worldwide Chauffeured Services

Tammy Carlisle, co-owner, Action Worldwide Chauffeured Services

The Southeast, in particular Georgia, has grown due to many corporations choosing to relocate headquarters to the area along with the tax incentives being provided by the state for TV and movie production, Carlisle says. “The Atlanta Convention and Visitor’s Bureau has done such a strategic job of marketing that our convention traffic has gone up 25% to 30% over the last few years,” she says. Her suggestion to dip into some of the business is to keep your eyes open to new companies opening in your area and find time to make contact with them. Stay involved with your local chamber of commerce so you are made aware of things coming into the area in advance of them even opening. “No matter what city you’re in, you should be a member of the local convention and visitor’s bureau.”


Wendy Kleefisch, owner, Brevard Executive Limousine

Wendy Kleefisch, owner, Brevard Executive Limousine

Wendy Kleefisch, owner, Brevard Executive Limousine

TNCs have smothered a lot of the business in the Orlando region, Kleefisch says. They are allowed preferential treatment at the Orlando airport. “We’ve noticed a mass increase in businesses going bankrupt and going under, as well as smaller companies merging with larger companies to become powerful in number. The economic growth is bringing many exhibitors to the convention center, and that’s where you have the best chances to provide transportation in the Orlando market. We don’t see as many dinner charters as we used to. Buses are the number one vehicle moving in Orlando secondary to SUVs.”

There are conventions every week, a lot of theme parks, and entertainment destinations in the area. The newest attraction at Universal Studios, a water park called Volcano Bay, is drawing in the international crowd.

Florida had many evacuees from Puerto Rico move in after Hurricane Maria– nearly 150,000 according to Fox News. They are being helped by a relief aid program to help them get jobs and placed in homes.

“This will contribute to job supply and demand. “We also do a lot of cruise transportation in Port Canaveral, which is about 45 minutes north of the Orlando airport.” The port is ranked as the world’s second busiest cruise port in multi-day embarkations.

In order to take advantages of the many opportunities available, Kleefisch advises being properly licensed and permitted in Orange County, Orlando International, and Port Canaveral. This will allow you to pick up at all of those locations. Without them, you cannot access your clients. Learn how to use the back roads, because with economic growth you have constant construction. Roads are often shut at night and in the early morning, so it’s important to learn several different ways to get to the airport and ports. “Don’t just rely on GPS, because these routes aren’t always updated quickly. With road closures comes potential for accidents, so make sure your chauffeurs are aware and alert.”


Gray Hill and Jeff Shanker, owner and chief strategist, Blue Diamond Limousine and Black Tie Transportation

Gray Hill and Jeff Shanker, owner and chief strategist, Blue Diamond Limousine and Black Tie Transportation

Gray Hill and Jeff Shanker, owner and chief strategist, Blue Diamond Limousine and Black Tie Transportation

In the Raleigh-Durham- Chapel Hill region, growth is spreading across the board, boosting all economic, transportation, and hospitality segments, says Gray Hill, owner of Black Tie Transportation of Winston-Salem, N.C., and Blue Diamond Limousine of Raleigh, N.C. “We’re doing a lot of point to points, airports, meeting places, and clients going out and having dinner and back again. A lot of people are coming into the area riding around and seeing what Raleigh has to offer.” He’s also seen more demand from meeting planners.

“The economic success brings a lot of multiple day-trips, and with that, convention goers looking to do things offsite,” adds Jeff Shanker, Black Tie’s chief strategist who has experience in New Jersey and Washington, D.C. markets as well. “We’re getting a lot of road shows in the Raleigh region, but then they want to go out and see Wilmington for the day and head down to Fayetteville.” Shanker credits the strong growth of the Trump economy along with record high stock markets with spurring more business travel overall.


Randy Allen, owner, James Limousine

Randy Allen, owner, James Limousine

Randy Allen, owner, James Limousine

Located just 90 miles south of Washington, D.C., the state capital and a historical hub of Virginia has evolved into a desired destination that sits along the banks of the James River and at the intersection of I-95 and I-64. The city also lies less than 50 miles from Williamsburg-area resort-style properties and historical areas.

“Our business is up this year by 25%,” says Randy Allen, owner of James Limousine, which has grown into a 35 vehicle fleet and acquired a few smaller operations in the past year. The company does about 80% corporate business.

“With low unemployment and businesses sitting on record profits, the city is hosting more meetings and conferences. The local Richmond airport has set record passenger counts almost every month this year.”

The Bachelorette reality-TV contest this year came to Richmond for a 10-day shoot, where the sponsors and clients spent 20-hour days with multiple vehicles, Allen recalls.

Allen’s approach to gaining more business in a strong market would work in most other cities: “We are very active in the Virginia Business Travel Association. The combination of the service we provide and some of the technology sets us apart. You should have the ability to track vehicles as they approach a pick-up point and deliver trip status updates in real time in texts and emails. There’s still a chance to stand out from the crowd doing basic things like that.”

Allen also finds the GRiDD Technologies G-Net platform, which connects operators for real-time affiliation and farm-ins and outs, works well in his market. “We are using G-Net as much as possible. It’s made us more efficient, cut down on errors, and we’re receiving more trips than we’re sending. There are hundreds of G-Net companies actively sending and receiving.”   

Related Topics: Atlanta operators, best cities for business, building your clientele, business growth, client markets, Eastern U.S. Operators, Florida operators, Georgia operators, How To, Jeff Shanker, Mike Barreto, North Carolina operators, Pennsylvania operators, Randy Allen, Wendy Kleefisch

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