It was a summer job as a high schooler getting his hands dirty in the shop that opened Trey Mytty's eyes to the trucking industry.
Working alongside about 50 other Omaha Truck Center employees, Mytty liked working at the shop and calling his uncle — then-owner Jim Schlarb — “boss.” As the years passed, Mytty climbed the managerial ladder, first as manager of a single location and later as vice president of the company.
In 2008, Mytty bought the truck center, which provides many companies and workers in the Midwest with the truck and trailers they need to do their jobs, as well as services like body shop repair and leasing and rentals. The truck center sells school buses and is the state's largest Freightliner dealership.
“We've basically expanded based on opportunities, what fit well with our business,” Mytty said.
The family-owned Omaha Truck Center — founded in 1975 by Floyd Hough and Lloyd Brown — isn't the same place where Mytty started his career. When Schlarb, his uncle, took over in 1984, it had just 20 employees.
Today, the Omaha-based company has 450 employees, 11 locations in three states and a couple of expansions either recently finished or under way.
This month, the truck center completed its latest expansion: An 8,000-square-foot shop with nine repair bays and a washing bay that was added to its 108th and L Streets location in Omaha. The original facility was built in the 1970s, and the new space adds to the 25,000-square-foot facility there.
The company also broke ground on a 12,000-square-foot addition to the Express Truck Center facility in York, Neb., that was completed just last year along the well-traveled Interstate 80 and Highway 81 corridor. Both expansions stem from an uptick in demand and perhaps are a reflection of a recovering economy, Mytty said.
In all, the Omaha Truck Center since 2006 has added or is adding nearly 37,000 square feet to its facilities in Omaha, York and Columbus, putting the total square footage for all of its facilities at 352,144 square feet.
The Omaha Truck Center has tapped into a sweet spot of business in a region where trucking plays a significant role, said Larry Johnson, president of the Nebraska Trucking Association.
In Nebraska, for example, one of every seven workers is employed by the trucking industry, he said, and about 13,500 trucking companies are headquartered in the state.
“They have a can-do attitude that says if it's good for Nebraska and it's good for the trucking industry, it's good for the Omaha Truck Center(s),” he said. “They play very well with others.”
The company's body shop, for example, introduced pre-painted fenders and other frequently replaced body parts, to reduce time trucks are out of commission.
Perhaps the best example of their contributions to the trucking industry came in 2006 when they built a technical advancement center that offers paid on-the-job training for technicians. Through the years, the truck center also has sponsored competitions for diesel mechanic students and professionals.
Their involvement in training opportunities is a deliberate and critical part of their business, said director of business development Chad Kelsay.
Because of a national shortage of truckers and technicians who work on the trucks, the company is focusing more on the training center by adding another faculty member in the next couple of months and implementing a mentor program for new technicians. The center also is keeping up on the latest environmentally friendly technology.
“That's kind of unique in that they can train people right on site as opposed to sending them off,” Johnson said. “The shortage is one that continues to be of concern, but (leaders at the Omaha Truck Center) are very much a part of the efforts to create models that will allow for kids coming back and looking for opportunities here.”
Trucking employment in Nebraska is expected to grow. Jobs in the Nebraska trucking sector are projected to grow from 27,181 in 2008 to 33,415 in 2018 — a nearly 23 percent increase, according to a 2010 report on long-term job growth by the Nebraska Department of Labor.
That puts trucking jobs on a 2 percent climb in Nebraska each year — one of the strongest growth rates for any industry — behind only professional, scientific and technical services at 2.47 percent and ambulatory health care services at 2.6 percent.
It's an outlook that excites Mytty about the future of trucking in Nebraska and the other states where he does business.
Mytty can't imagine working anywhere else because the Midwest, he said, has provided him and his company solid economic footing, mostly due to its location in the middle of the country. It's also provided him the hard-working technicians and service people he needs.
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