Executive Transportation drives throughout the state, keeps roots in Jacksonville
Photo and story by David Blanchette
What started 19 years ago as a single stretch limousine operating on the weekends has grown into a 30-plus vehicle, 24-hour-per-day transportation company based in Jacksonville that reaches into every corner of the state.
Executive Transportation’s client list is large, from Amtrak to the State of Illinois to people who just want to make it to the airport. The business is owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Tim and Kate Mann, who don’t hesitate to give credit for Executive Transportation’s success.
“It’s all God, we are truly blessed,” Tim Mann said.
“Plus our chauffeurs are incredible,” Kate Mann said.
The firm is headquartered at South Main and Beecher in the building that was formerly the E.W. Brown Motors dealership. Passersby may notice some exotic cars in the display window, but the heart of the business is in the back were buses, vans and other vehicles of all sizes are parked, serviced and made ready for the next journey.
“A lot of people in Jacksonville say ‘I didn’t even know you were here,’ because 95 percent of our business is generated out of the Springfield market,” Tim Mann said. “But real estate is cheaper here. We’ve looked at buildings in Springfield, but we love Jacksonville. This community has taken care of both of us, and we’re never going anywhere.”
Tim Mann founded Executive Transportation in April 2004. He was a full-time police officer at the time and was looking for a way to make a little extra money on the weekends. A friend in the car business notified him of a stretch limousine that was for sale, and after buying it, Mann kept busy using the limo for wedding and special event transportation.
The business’ big break came when the firm was asked to assist with the West Central Mass Transit District, which had received operational funding but didn’t yet have all of the buses they needed to meet ridership demand. Tim acquired his first buses to help the Transit District, and took a gamble by purchasing a long-standing transportation company, Springfield Classic Limousine.
“That came with charter buses and it took us from a five or six car operation to a 15-car operation pretty much overnight,” Mann said.
The purchase of a well-established Springfield company also came with an impressive list of clients, and the Manns have built upon that list primarily through word of mouth by offering clean, dependable service no matter how large or small the job may be.
Kate Mann joined the rapidly growing business in 2012 and took over the reservation process.
“Our attention to detail put us on the map in the Springfield community because if we tell you we will be there at 3 p.m., we’re there at 2:50,” Kate Mann said. “Our clients love us. We have one client that always brings cookies to the chauffeur.”
Executive supplies all of the transportation needs for the sports and scholastic teams at Sacred Heart Griffin High School in Springfield. Other Springfield-based clients include Horace Mann Insurance, the History Comes Alive program, and many passengers who use Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport.
One of Executive Transportation’s biggest clients is the passenger train service Amtrak, a contract they inherited from Springfield Classic Limousine and have nurtured over the years. The Amtrak contract kept Executive and its chauffeurs working through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Executive Transportation ferries passengers between Amtrak routes that don’t have direct connections. People can, for instance, get off of one train in St. Louis and catch another train that leaves from Carbondale. Every day of the year, Executive services Amtrak’s northern Illinois route from Springfield to Peoria to Galesburg and back, and the southern route from Jacksonville to St. Louis to Carbondale and back.
Jacksonville does not have Amtrak service but since Executive is based in the city, riders can hop on the bus when it leaves the shop in Jacksonville and catch an Amtrak train farther south.
“We also have a secondary contract with Amtrak that’s called ‘passenger inconvenience,’” Tim Mann said. “Any time a train breaks down or there is a substantial delay of service, we send a vehicle to pick those passengers up.”
Executive Transportation shuttles many of the performing artists during the State Fair. Mann said it’s not uncommon for fans to surround the limousine and tap on the windows to get an artist’s attention. Once, an overzealous fan came after an artist with a bow and arrow while Executive was taking him back to his private plane. There are also some humorous interactions that have occurred between drivers and famous passengers.
“My former boss at the South Jacksonville Police Department, Chief Richard Evans, helped me out as a driver once during a very busy time, and drove recording artist Ice-T to a performance,” Mann said. “I asked him afterwards if everything went OK. He said ‘yeah, but he didn’t like my country music radio stations.’”
Executive maintains a shop in Springfield to quickly and conveniently respond to requests from the Capital City, but home base and the primary shop remains in Jacksonville. All of the firm’s vehicles are scrupulously maintained, but there are still times when the unexpected happens. During those emergencies, it’s all about how you handle the customer.
“We communicate with the drivers and the passengers and are honest about what’s going on,” Kate Mann said. “We have more than 100 affiliates across the United States through the National Limousine Association that we can use in emergencies or during instances when we are completely booked. We are going to get you to where you need to go no matter what happens.”
Many of Executive’s 18 employees are retired police officers, fire fighters or veterans “that have a little higher sense of awareness because we take people into St. Louis and other larger metropolitan areas,” Tim Mann said. “And our general manager, Andrew Finley, is all heart and is just incredible, he works hard, he’s always here to do whatever needs to be done.”
Kate Mann said that most of Executive’s employees have been there a long time and have developed close relationships with their regular clients.
“Some of our chauffeurs have been with us for so long that they have become like our family,” she said. “Sometimes a client will call and ask for our best chauffeur, and I tell them that I personally would ride with any of these people. I can’t say that one is better than another because they all do such a phenomenal job.”
“Tim and I very much believe that it’s not us that has made this success happen, all of this is from God,” Mann said. “Plus the fact that we do provide great service and our chauffeurs are incredible. It’s just a total package. But we know this came from God.”