Specialty Vehicles trio earns Nevada small business honor

April 5th, 2012

Specialty Vehicles trio earns Nevada small business honor

As Published in: Las Vegas Review Journal

The founder of Henderson-based Specialty Vehicles Inc. and her two daughters have been named 2012 Nevada Small Business Persons of the Year by the Nevada office of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Nancy Muñoz, chief executive officer of Specialty Vehicles, and daughters Leah Muñoz, president, and Rachel Drenk, secretary, will receive the award May 23 at a reception at Vegas PBS. They will also be recognized along with winners from other states at the SBA’s 49th annual National Small Business Week May 20-26 in Washington, D.C.

Specialty Vehicles designs, manufactures and markets trolleys, trams, electrical vehicles and buses, including the $90,000 Metro Tram. The vehicles are sold to municipalities, tour companies, amusement parks, hotels and airports for mass transit.

The company was founded by Nancy Muñoz in 1982 in Huntington Beach, Calif., and relocated to 440 Mark Leany Drive in Henderson in 2003. She learned the business from her father, Peter Miller, who started Micro Bus Corp.

The move to Henderson allowed Specialty Vehicles to add buses to its fleet of vehicles. A second facility purchased last year includes parts and services departments to handle Southern Nevada business, along with manufacturing the Metro Tram.

The women were nominated for the Small Business Association award by TMC Financing, which approved and funded a $600,000 SBA 504 loan for Specialty Vehicles to buy a 6,800-square-foot building near the existing facility.

The company was able to expand its current distribution and manufacturing operations and plans to hire 10 more employees, mostly repair technicians, Leah Muñoz said Thursday.

“In the past two to three years, we went through an expansion and overgrew our current facility,” Leah Muñoz said. “It was a lot of hard work, a lot of sweat and tears. It hasn’t been easy.”

Specialty Vehicles received economic stimulus money from the government for transportation projects, which was key to expanding during a challenging economy, she said.

The larger staging area and dock-high loading ramp at the new facility will help the company ship and receive vehicles, saving thousands of dollars each year in towing fees alone, she said.

TMC also worked with Mutual of Omaha Bank to provide Specialty Vehicles with a $500,000 line of credit for working capital, said Ann Santiago, regional loan officer for TMC in Las Vegas.

“This is a great opportunity for our community,” she said. “With the working capital and the new facility, they were able to expand and add more jobs.”

Specialty Vehicles needed the line of credit because it sometimes takes a while to receive payment from public agencies that order the trolleys, she said

“We were so proud to nominate them. This is a third-generation, family-owned company. The importance to the economy … everybody focuses on the need to diversify, and all of the manufacturing jobs we lost to China and Mexico are slowly coming back to our community,” Santiago said.

Other SBA award winners include:

■ Microenterprise Business Person of the Year: Jane Lee, president, Jadon Foods.

■ Minority Small Business Champion of the Year: Jackson and Paula Sylvester, founder and executive producer, Large Vision Business Network Mixer.

■ Women in Business Champion of the Year: Kimberly Gyuran-Miles, founder and president, The Payroll Co.

■ Home Based Business Champion of the Year: William Robert James, owner and president, A to Z Improvements.

The nominees are judged by an independent panel of small-business leaders on a variety of criteria, including staying power, growth in number of employees, increase in sales, financial reports, innovative products or services, response to adversity, evidence of contributions to community-oriented projects and small business advocacy.