Trent Stange’s bus runs on maroon and gold.
As the 1992 business graduate from Central Michigan University drove the football team deep into downtown Ann Arbor for this year’s opening game against Michigan, he was proud to give back to the foundation of his career.
“I wanted CMU on the side of my bus,” Stange said. “I wanted to work for my alma mater.”
After placing a $60,000 bid on CMU Athletics’ busing contract, Stange’s company, Compass Coach, received the contract in mid-August.
The contract for the football and women’s soccer teams totaled around $250,000 for a different company after last year, he said. The ending total from this year’s contract might increase, depending on the amount of events CMU ultimately competes in.
“It all depends on the playoffs,” Stange said of the final payout. “I came in very competitive to save Central money. I worked very hard for this bid.”
Aside from the contracts, the Cadillac native already had a long-standing relationship with the school.
Along with his wife, Kimberly, who also graduated in 1992 and returned for a master’s degree in criminal justice, Stange said his aunt, uncle, father, brother and both sisters are all CMU alumni.
“My family is maroon and gold,” Stange said. “It runs deep. We’ve spent most of our lives here.”
The couple both worked in residence halls during their time at CMU, Stange in Emmons Hall and Kimberly in Woldt Hall. He was a member of the Lamda Chi fraternity while she was in the Alpha Chi Omega sorority.
After school, Stange went to work at the Convention Bureau, and Kimberly went on to be a parole officer for 15 years.
Then, in 2000 when the chance to purchase a bus company came up, Stange finally realized a family legacy and sold his home in 36 hours. His father drove a tour bus, and Stange fondly remembered scenic trips to Nova Scotia and other locales.
“When I was 13 or 14, I knew I wanted to own a bus company,” he said. “My father was in the business since I was a youngster. I was always in the back seat.”
Kimberly soon quit her job and went to work with her husband. Today, she manages driver files and processes background checks and drug tests.
“I entered into it (naively),” Kimberly said of the bus business. “I didn’t grow up in the industry. I didn’t know all that it entails.”
While Stange was constantly on the road as a driver for the first four years of his company, Kimberly worked hard to keep their life intact. Compass initially hosted bus tours and provided transportation for elementary and high school events.
“She was in the background taking care of everything,” Stange said of his wife. “I couldn’t have done it without her.”
After the those first couple of years, Kimberly has developed a strong appreciation for the transportation industry.
Despite some rowdy passengers, she ultimately found solace in providing a needed service for exciting events, attending several bus conventions since going to work for Compass.
Stange hopes to expand business to other parts of CMU. He’s already provided transportation to student bands from the School of Music and wants students to know they’re still home when aboard his buses.
“I want to be a seamless part of CMU,” Stange said. “When students get on these buses, I want them to feel like it’s their bus.”
Stange purchased three new buses this year. The newest, acquired in August, cost $525,000. But such a premium is an important investment, he said, to strengthening CMU’s reputation and bringing in more students.
“Having new buses is a good PR move,” Stange said. “When a team comes off a new bus, a high school kid will notice that. They’ll know Central is class. We’ll do anything we can to help recruit new kids. We’re part of CMU, and we always will be.”
And for the football team, Stange is certain to provide ample room for Chippewas. Each 57-seat bus will only take 30 riders on game day.
“We’re taking pretty big guys,” Stange said of the team. “So it’s nice for them to spread out.”