From Beer Bottles to Big Stuff
In 1946, Charlie Otto and his brother founded Otto Bros. Transfer with one gas-powered rig for hauling livestock, beer bottles and granite from Delano, throughout the Midwest, and even to Pennsylvania, traveling the tiny two-lane roads common back then. After a couple years and many miles together, the brothers chose to part ways for new pursuits.
Newly married and father to a growing family, Charlie's entrepreneurial spirit kicked into overdrive. He opened a Texaco gas station, started the "Sun Valley Dairy" milk route, and farmed and raised cattle. His newly named trucking company, Otto Transfer, provided a steady cash flow. His beloved wife, Joan, whom Charlie affectionately called "the war department," kept the books.
Economic upheaval hit in the early 80s, and deregulation of the trucking industry changed the way freight moved throughout the United States. Charlie was forced to look inward and determine how to move forward. Then, he got lucky.
He met with Bell Pole Company, who had just secured the work of the NSP (Northern States Power), the largest electricity supplier in the five-state area. Bell Pole needed a trucker who could haul utility poles and run a self-unloading truck—a machine that was new to the industry. With a handshake and a small loan from Bell Pole, Charlie installed a crane on one of his tractors. As time marched on, Charlie added more trucks to meet Bell's demand and led Otto Transfer's growth to six trucks.
Sadly, Charlie, 71, died after a heart attack in 1999, a few years after he initiated conversations with his family about how Otto Transfer would continue someday without him at the helm. Several children, including his daughter, Mary, who had helped run the business since age 18, and his son, Kevin, who owned his own fleet of Otto Transfer trucks, rallied together to grow the company. In 2002, Kevin, and his wife, Liz, bought Otto Transfer from its shareholders: Joan and Kevin's nine siblings.
Today, under Liz's leadership as Chief Executive Officer and Chief Marketing Officer and Kevin's direction as Chief Financial Officer and Safety Director, the management team is building on Otto Transfer's 70-year legacy and advancing its next phase of growth. Otto Transfer is a nationally certified woman business enterprise (WBE) and SmartWay Transport Partner. In addition, Kevin currently is Chair of the Minnesota Trucking Association, a position through which he is helping to shape and improve the trucking industry for professional drivers and their employers.
Since Otto Transfer was founded, more than 30 Ottos—Charlie's children and their spouses, grandchildren, siblings, and nephews and nieces—have contributed to its success, whether they were driving, dispatching, swinging wrenches in the shop, or pulling guard duty to catch a thief. Together, they have sustained Charlie's spirit of customer service, entrepreneurialism, hard work, community, and family.