Sun State is a full-service dealer with six locations throughout Florida, offering a full line of International Trucks. It also represents products from brands including IC Bus, Hyundai Translead trailers, Godwin Truck Bodies and Fontaine Trailers.
Growing up in a small town in southern Arkansas, Horton told ATD annual conference attendees on Feb 16 in Las Vegas his initials goals were to graduate high school and get a job at the local lumber mill.
“I never thought that I would have the opportunity to receive an award like this,” said Horton, adding that he is proud to now be employing more people than at the lumber mill in Arkansas.
Horton joined International Harvester (now Navistar) as a management trainee after graduating from the University of Arkansas-Little Rock in 1974. He advanced to the role of vice president and general manager of International’s Foundry Business in 1995, but later resigned and began the process of purchasing the company-owned Tampa and Sarasota dealerships in 1999.
The company has grown its revenue by over 400%, adding an aftermarket business in 2003 and purchasing Moore International Trucks in Haines City in 2005 and the IC Bus franchise in 2015.
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 launched in 2018 and the first class of 12 students graduated last year.
Horton expressed great pride in his work in the Tampa area with a school that provides young, underprivileged children guidance through high school, providing them a greater chance of attending college. Horton’s wife, Miriam, joined him on stage, and he spoke of the joy of having their two daughters involved in the day-to-day operations of the business.
Jim Bland from TranSource Inc. in Greensboro, NC, was named Dealer of the Year runner-up. The other nominees were Thomas “Lance” Wilson from General Truck Sales & Service in Memphis, TN; Tim Mitchell from Motor Truck Equipment Co. / Kenworth of Pennsylvania in Carlisle, PA; and Scott Pearson of Peterbilt of Atlanta in Jackson, GA.
The nominees are selected by the ATD board and dealer association executives. Professors from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business evaluate the nominees based on dealership performance, industry leadership and community service.