In its 95-year history, Thomas Built Buses has developed a reputation for the quality of its school buses, and at the same time has created a legacy of employee loyalty that spans generations. In an era where most people change jobs five to seven times throughout their working life (Rosenberg McKay, 2006), it’s apparent that over the past 95 years, Thomas Built Buses not only has built some of the industry’s best buses but also an extraordinary workplace.
Jan Miller was an integral member of the engineering department from 1977 to 2002, when she retired and then returned to work part-time for another six months. “I loved my job as an administrative secretary,” said Miller. She organized a secretarial team, started a recycling program and enjoyed participating in Thomas’ community activities. Miller’s husband, Roger, worked in the paint department in the early 1970s, and they encouraged their daughter, Kelly, to go to work at Thomas, too.
Kelly Fowler started at Thomas in 1993 as a data plate processor and production clerk, and in 1996 she was promoted to production scheduler for the four High Point plants. Eighteen years later, she’s still there. She met her husband, Barry Fowler, at Thomas and he’s been at the company since 1977.
“This is a great workplace for women,” said Kelly Fowler. “Thomas really is an equal opportunity employer. The current company president is a woman, and she’s very intelligent, does her homework and is approachable.”
In 1967, Mike Riggs started work as an electrician at what was then Thomas Car Works, moving up through a number of jobs until he retired as a supervisor in 2007. Riggs now works for Rifled Air Conditioning, which is owned by Matthews Buses, a Thomas dealer. “It’s such a good place to work,” said Riggs of Thomas Built Buses. “Building school buses for kids; that’s what it’s all about.”
Riggs’ great-uncle, Roy Holder, started work at Thomas in the 1950s, and stayed for about 25 years. And, continuing the family tradition, Riggs’ brother, Tim, put in 30 years at the company in seating and material planning, retiring in 2007.
Mike Riggs’ son, Dwight, worked at the company a couple of years in the 1990s, and his brother-in-law, Darrell Crumbley, has worked there since 1984.
Mike Riggs’ son, Jason, started work at Thomas in 1992 and is still there. Jason Riggs started on the assembly line right out of high school, moving up through various jobs as he finished college. He’s now district service manager for the central region. Jason Riggs said: “Once you’re in the school bus business, you’ll be in it your whole life. You build school buses to transport children safely to and from school. My family and I take pride in that.”
The two families profiled in this issue of the BUS REPORT are typical of many long-time Thomas employees, and their commitment to the company reflects that of the many multi-generational employee families who have helped make Thomas a great place to work.