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October 28, 2010  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

15 Fascinating Personalities 2010

This edition of SBF’s Fascinating Personalities series focuses on suppliers to the school transportation industry. Find out who is the longest active member of NAPT, who has climbed the Mexican pyramids in Cozumel, who plays hockey every week and who has a background as a U.S. Army Ranger.

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Larry Bannon, whose hobbies include riding motorcycles, has traveled extensively in Central and South America.

Larry Bannon, whose hobbies include riding motorcycles, has traveled extensively in Central and South America.

Larry Bannon
Vice President, New Business Development, SynTec Seating Solutions LLC, High Point, N.C.

How did you get your start in the industry?
Washing buses for Macnab Bus Sales [in Ingersoll, Ontario] during high school.

Current job duties?
My current responsibilities at SynTec include working with the OEMs in developing commercial relationships, assisting in the marketing efforts and looking at new business opportunities related to the school bus industry.

Top achievements?
Successful implementation of comprehensive product strategy and plan; key member of Thomas C2 product implementation team.

Outside interests?
Executive committee of local chapter of the American Red Cross, fitness (cycling, running, swimming, triathlon) and sailing.

If you could travel anywhere …
Latin America. I spent many months traveling and working in South and Central America during my career and enjoyed the friendships, cultures and experiences I made along the way.

One story that sticks with me is our dealing with a bus cooperative in Colombia. I visited a customer who operated hundreds of buses in the central part of Colombia.

On visiting his dispatch office, he showed me a map of the country with approximately 100 pins on the map. The customer was located in the center of the recruiting effort for the FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia], a “narco-terrorist” organization that has been wreaking havoc in Colombia for years. In order to intimidate the population and extort money, they would hijack the inter-city buses, rob the passengers and then “torch” the bus. The purpose of my visit was to sell the co-op new buses. Although the opportunity was financially rewarding for our company, it was a firsthand look at how terrorism affects a population. My heart went out to the bus operators and their customers who relied on this essential service for transportation and their livelihoods. They are resilient, remarkable people who were living through a very dangerous period.

I miss these adventures and hope to recreate similar adventures in the future.

Something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I have visited numerous bus manufacturing plants throughout the world and talked to bus executives about the dynamics, issues and challenges of our business. I discovered that there is a common bond and understanding among all “bus people” that you can only appreciate if you are part of the bus industry.

What do you like most about being in the industry?
Meeting interesting and unique people who have impacted my life.

The last thing you do before you leave the office at the end of the day?
Head for the next adventure.

Born: Stratford, Ontario
Home: Jamestown, N.C.
Years in industry: 35
Notable previous jobs: Vice president and general manager, Thomas Built Buses of Canada Ltd.; vice president, international operations, Thomas Built Buses Inc.; president, Thomas Built Buses de Mexico; vice president, product planning, Thomas Built Buses Inc.



Brandon Billingsley
President, Heavy Duty Bus Parts Inc., Willis, Texas

Brandon Billingsley (right) and his father, Don, visiting the Selway Wilderness in Idaho.

How did you get your start in the industry?
My grandfather designed and implemented the first universal axle bend exhaust system for school buses in 1968. From there he formed his company, Billingsley Parts and Equipment Inc. For summer jobs I did just about everything at Billingsley Parts, from seat covers to welding to shipping and receiving. I guess I was born into it, and proudly so.

Current job duties?
Overseeing the daily operations of our current product line, as well as the research and development of new products.

Top achievements?
Graduating college from Southwest Texas State University and being named an honoree by the Texas Association for Pupil Transportation. Of course, I’m very proud of my wife and two children.

Outside interests?
The outdoors. Offshore fishing is a huge passion; however, I’ll take any fishing. Scuba diving and the places it has taken me is also a big enjoyment.

Tell us about some of your most memorable trips.
Climbing the mountains of Central Mexico to see the pyramids and taking a bus ride from there to Acapulco to go out after sailfish. The bus ride was an adventure in itself and we did manage to land a 9-foot sail. Some of my favorite dive spots are off the island of Cozumel. Horseback riding the mountains of Colorado with my father, or fishing a stock pond with my son — they’re all special.

If you could travel anywhere …
Africa, to experience the Serengeti. Also, there’s some of the world’s best marlin fishing off the coast of East Africa.

What do you like most about being in the industry?
The people. The many friends, role models and mentors that I’ve developed within the industry.

The last thing you do before you leave the office at the end of the day?
Turn off the A/C, turn off the lights and lock the door.

Born: Houston
Home: Montgomery, Texas
Years in industry: All my life
Notable previous jobs: Former U.S. Army Ranger

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