Oscar Horton, president and CEO of Sun State International Trucks, LLC in Tampa, Fla., is one of five nominees for 2020 Truck Dealer of the Year – a national award that recognizes commercial-truck dealers for industry leadership, business performance and community service.
“There is an old African proverb: If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together,” shared Horton. “The honor of being nominated, by my peers, is a testament of just how far you can go, when you go with others.”
Horton joined International Harvester (now Navistar) as a management trainee after graduating from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 1974. Over the next few decades Horton rose through the ranks, holding positions in sales, finance, manufacturing, labor relations and finally as the vice president and general manager of International’s Foundry Business in 1995.
While Horton had reached the level of senior vice president in a Fortune 500 company with the possibility of continuing on and becoming CEO, he was not satisfied. With three decades of experience in the transportation industry and valuable industry contacts, he resigned from Navistar and began the process of purchasing the company-owned Tampa and Sarasota dealerships in late 1999.
Today, Sun State International is a full-service commercial transportation business with six locations throughout Florida offering a full line of International Trucks and representing a variety of other products from brands including IC Bus, Hyundai Translead trailers, Godwin Truck Bodies and Fontaine Trailers. Under Horton’s vision, the company has grown its revenue by over 400%, adding an aftermarket business in 2003 and purchasing Moore International Trucks in Haines City, Fla. in 2005 and purchasing the IC Bus franchise in 2015.
“With my vision of growth and profitability, improved customer service and market opportunities not yet pursued in the area, I knew this business and its employees would succeed,” Horton said. “During my two decades owning Sun State, I’ve realized my goals and more.”
In addition to performance improvements, Sun State has improved its profile in the community under Horton’s leadership. In 2014, Horton began working with Hillsborough Community College to help start a new diesel technician training program to help address the diesel technician shortage. The program officially kicked-off in 2018 and in January, 2019 the first class of 12 students graduated.
Sun State also works with the Florida Trucking Association’s Teachers’ Tour to share how valuable the industry is to the economy and show teachers how they can educate their students to the wide variety of careers available in the industry. “On an individual level, I have served on many boards but my true passion is education. I work to serve as a role model to youth in the community and as an example of what can be accomplished when one has the vision, desire and motivation to succeed,” Horton said.
Over the past decade, the dealership has won numerous awards including PepsiCo Supplier of the Year in 2012, induction into the Tampa Bay Business Hall of Fame, and being named a Tampa Bay Business Legend by Business Leader magazine, Distinguished Citizen of the Year by the Boy Scouts of America, Business of the Year – Industrial by Black Enterprise magazine, and Florida’s Most Influential Business Leaders, Florida Trend magazine in 2018.
While Sun State is a successful first-generation family business, Oscar and his wife Miriam are focused on achieving their most passionate goal: ensuring that Sun State will be a second generation-owned family business. Both of their daughters, Kelli and Alisan, are active in the day-to-day operations of the business and have completed the ATD Dealer Academy training program.
The national Truck Dealer of the Year award is sponsored by ATD, Heavy Duty Trucking magazine and Procede Software.
The other nominees are Thomas “Lance” Wilson from General Truck Sales & Service in Memphis, Tenn., Tim Mitchell from Motor Truck Equipment Company / Kenworth of Pennsylvania in Carlisle, Pa., Jim Bland from TranSource, Inc. in Greensboro, N.C., and Scott Pearson of Peterbilt of Atlanta in Jackson, Ga.
The nominees were selected by ATD board members and dealer association executives. Professors from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business in Bloomington, Ind., will evaluate the nominees based on dealership performance, industry leadership and community service.
The winner and runner-up will be announced on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, during the 57th annual ATD Show in Las Vegas, which runs concurrently with the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Show from Friday, Feb. 14, through Monday, Feb. 17.
ATD, a division of NADA, represents more than 1,800 heavy- and medium-duty truck dealerships in the U.S.
For more information about the ATD Show, visit atdshow.org.
This is the first article in a six-part series featuring each nominee for 2020 Truck Dealer of the Year.