// by Cindy Ficorelli //
Photos by // Michael Gleason Photography
Grand Blanc resident Tom Brannon opened a refrigeration business shortly after he turned 18. Twenty years later, he sold his refrigeration business and became a multiple party store owner. Life was good, he was financially comfortable, and he was enjoying the rewards of entrepreneurship.
But an unexpected curve ball came his way and Brannon’s life turned upside down instantly when he was in a car accident that disabled him. He required many surgeries on his leg, and, eventually, after five years of attempts to save it, doctors told Brannon amputation was the only option left for him.
In the meantime, his party stores were left unattended, and robberies were rampant, “In one week alone, I was hit seven times,” he recalls. The absentee owner had no choice but to sell his businesses.
He was at the lowest point in his life. He had gone from having it all to having nothing, and did not know how to handle this new situation.
“I felt like my life was over,” he says. “I fell into a deep depression and didn’t know how to climb out. What does a person do with only one leg?”
Brannon struggled to learn to walk again with his new prosthetic leg, but finally, he picked himself up and decided it was time to do something with his life.
“I answered an ad for a shuttle driver with American Shuttle, and the next thing I knew, I was the company’s owner,” he says. The previous owner was ready to retire, and Brannon had two successful businesses under his belt. The timing and fit couldn’t have been more perfect.
“I’m a handicapped man helping handicapped people,” he says with a subtle smile.
American Shuttle, based in Grand Blanc, serves anyone who needs non-emergency medical transportation with pick-ups in Genesee County. “We will take customers anywhere they need to go for their medical care,” Brannon says. “We make countless trips to the VA hospital in Ann Arbor, and we’ve taken customers as far as Grand Rapids.” In most cases, insurance covers the cost of American Shuttle transportation services. “Working here is so rewarding; it is the best job I think I’ve ever had,” he reflects.
Sometimes, Brannon fills in as a driver and sees first-hand how many people are struggling. “When I tell them I’m an amputee, I see a flicker of light in their eyes. If I can do it, they can too. I am living in their shoes. I understand what they are going through, and how American Shuttle can help them gain some level of independence.”
Brannon owns nine Dodge Caravan mini-vans. Half are equipped with wheelchair ramps and the vans are meticulously clean and well-maintained. If a windshield shows even a tiny crack, it is repaired right away.
American Shuttle was a proud sponsor of “Over the Edge,” a fundraiser for The Disability Network that was held in July at The Durant in Flint. People in the community could rappel down the side of a multi-story building in downtown Flint. Proceeds from the event were used to support reducing barriers for people with disabilities.
After Brannon took ownership of American Shuttle, he added a dispatch system, which reduces and often eliminates any wait time for transportation. “Our dispatchers know at all times where all drivers are and can contact them to add another customer to their schedule,” he says. If the dispatchers cannot find a driver for last-minute calls, Brannon will take the call himself.
“Customer service is by far our number one priority,” he says, and is proud to report that his business has almost doubled since he took ownership in February.
“Our customers can always feel confident that they are in good hands with our drivers,” Brannon adds. “Our drivers are warm and approachable, and they treat each person with dignity and respect. Our employees are chosen very carefully. They are screened thoroughly and we check their backgrounds, give them CPR training and administer a drug screening. They also are required to take a defensive driving class. American Shuttle is all about building a reputation as a strong, customer-focused business with reliable and friendly employees.”
Right after the accident, owning his own company again was something Brannon never imagined happening.
“I never imagined I would be where I am today. Sometimes I think this is all a dream. I am so fortunate; I joined the local church, I have great employees, I’m helping people in the community where I live. Life is good.”
American Shuttle provides transportation services Monday through Friday from 4:30 am to 6 pm. For more information, call 810-694-5003.