A sleek front mask. Curb appeal. Fashion-forward design. Powerful lines. Futuristic. Streamlined. Those are the adjectives used to describe today’s transit bus and were used at a presentation of four new D35LFR New Flyer buses to St. Cloud Metropolitan Transit Commission.
The sky was clear, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day in St. Cloud for the presentation to Metro Bus of its new buses at the EconomicDevelopment Partnership breakfast while many community members and business leaders were on hand.
St. Cloud’s Economic Development Partnership is committed to enhancing the region’s economy and works with the public and private sector to develop high-quality jobs, a well-trained workforce and a growing tax base for the region and the direction New Flyer has taken in the last few years focuses on those same principles.
New Flyer operates manufacturing facilities in Winnipeg, MB; Crookston, Minn., and in St. Cloud, Minn. At the presentation, New Flyer President and CEO Paul Soubry says, “We have over 600 employees here and our exec team met with all of our employees this morning and I can tell you there’s a tremendous amount of pride with those people being able to build something that operates and performs in their local community.”
From Airplanes to Buses
Soubry says his background came from sitting at the dinner table every night with a “coach” talking about people; how to do the right thing for your customers, your employees and your shareholders.
He tells the story of how during the Second World War his father’s house in Belgium was taken over by the Germans and he came to Canada and Winnipeg in 1948, got a job and worked his way up from a trainee all the way to CEO of a company.
“It’s kind of hokey, but people think about heroes and who’s your hero and so forth, and every night at the dinner table I have a coach …,” he says. “I was very fortunate.”
Prior to New Flyer, Soubry worked for 24 years at StandardAero, his last position being president and CEO.
He describes the company as a neat success story of a small local business, not unlike New Flyer. “That grew to the point where we were acquired a number of times and ultimately acquired in ’07 by the ruler of Dubai who was trying to set up a world aerospace company of world-class players.”
His desire to live in the same community and to stay in a general management-type role was what brought him to New Flyer.
“The CEO of New Flyer at the time was just in the process of retiring and so it was a great opportunity to join a business that’s in transportation and has a lot of the same principles of how to operate a facility, how to manage both the selling and the servicing of a product, dealing with both private and public companies,” Soubry says.
When he started at StandardAero it was at $100 million and when he left, a $1.5 billion with facilities all over the world. The opportunity to be acquiring businesses in multiple countries, growing and signing very large government contracts and negotiating bank arrangements and the continuing education to learn from a lot of other people is just some of the experience he has brought to New Flyer.
As he says, “It is kind of getting us from just a good bus company, now to a great bus company that has a whole lifecycle and service perspective, which is the world I grew up in.”
Soubry made a change from a sexy industry that works with everything from military aircraft to helicopters to VIP airplanes. But, he says that is coming to the bus transit market.
“There is a perception that I think is widely inappropriate about how transit is about the gravely, dirty, noisy bus with black smoke coming out of it.
“The current generation, the look, the styling, the comfort, the advent and proliferation of bus rapid transit to move people in high volumes, there is a lot of sexiness coming to the bus transit market.”