Leaders to the nth Degree

Harbinger, bellwhether, counselor, luminary, maestro ... all are synonyms for the term leader and all describe the 2008 winners of the Ground Support Leaders of the Year awards.

Among her many other duties, it is Jody’s responsibility to employ new technologies to make the ramp safer and more efficient for the ramp agent. In 2005, she came up with a concept that had never before been tried at a major carrier. Seeing the utilization of large tractors to position baggage carts and freight around the airplane is neither easy nor efficient, she went looking for a new technology.She found it in the Charlatte T-208 which is a small, yet powerful electric tug that has a very good turning radius and is perfect for moving carts around an airplane where space is a premium. Continental has since deployed those tractors in several different applications, including maneuvering carts in and around the bag room. This has saved Continental a substantial amount of money in the operation.

Engineer/Innovator Leader of the Year Award — for a company or a person that has introduced a revolutionary product.

After earning a BS in chemistry with a minor in mechanical engineering and physics, Joe Hart started his career with the State of West Virginia on a highway tunnel project and after its completion, he joined Kersey Manufacturing designing electric mining equipment. These vehicles included mining scoops, loaders and tractors.

While at Kersey, Hart was approached by the airlines to investigate GSE opportunities. Eastern Airlines made a trip to Kersey and saw a mining tractor in the factory and asked if it could push an airplane. The answer was “yes,” and the electric pushback was born. More than 60 of these new electric vehicles were delivered to several legacy carriers, including international customers. In addition to the pushbacks, he designed a unique cargo transporter for Flying Tiger using the same Kersey electronics.

During his tenure at Kersey, Hart decided to try his luck in the fire truck business. At the time, American LaFrance was the sister company to Kersey and Joe was looking for a new challenge. Joe succeeded in this venture and was responsible for modernizing windshield design and bringing modular stainless bodies to the marketplace.

Hart came to Charlatte in 1993 and is now chief engineer and can be credited with designing tractors, several belt loaders, lavatory service trucks and a new generation of electric pushbacks. “Let me tell you, he is not a typical engineer where you walk in his office and see him playing solitaire,” Rob Lamb, Charlatte sales executive quips. “He is one of the few folks I know that can design a vehicle AutoCAD, weld a chassis and eventually help assemble the unit. Most engineers only engineer the vehicles — not Joe, he is involved in the entire process.

“He knows his way around the workshop, he can even get dirty. Joe is most likely so admired and respected in the GSE industry because he truly can design and build just about anything.” Even though Joe has been building electric equipment for 33 years now, come 5 p.m., all that hydraulic fluid comes off and he’s on the golf course.

Kaizen Leader of the Year Award — Japanese for continuous and incremental improvement, this award is for a person or company that has implemented a new business philosophy about business workplace practices, focusing on efficiency and improvement in productivity, performance or processes.

At a very early age, Mark Pollack, now president and chief executive officer of Sage Parts Plus Inc., was exposed to GSE and the aviation industry. As a child, Pollack would roam the halls of Airway Equipment (later Hudson General and now Servisair) where his father worked for more than 30 years and served in various capacities, including president and chief operating officer. Young Pollack would find himself working on the snow trailers, on the ramp, cleaning buses and eventually writing software for use in the operation.

Prior to purchasing Sage Parts in 1998, Pollack spent eight years as director of sales and operations developing and building a distribution network of high-end automotive paints for a division of Hoechst A.G. During this time he built a network of six warehouses, more than 100 technical sales personnel and 150 jobbers, and a customer base of more than 3,000 auto body repair facilities. He received recognition for his leadership and his organization’s high level of customer retention and satisfaction, as well as innovative marketing programs.

In 1998, when Pollack and business partner Michael Bloomfield acquired Sage, the company had fewer than five full-time employees and generated less than $3 million in annual revenues. Through his innovative approach, processes and use of technology, he was able to dramatically change the supply of GSE replacement parts. Today, just 10 years later, Sage Parts has become the leader in its space, with a team of 265-plus employees with operations in the US, Canada, Hong Kong and soon in Europe. In 2008, the company is expected to generate in excess of $80 million in revenue.

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