How 'SNL' and late night talk shows saved the transportation industry

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- One key linchpin is responsible for revving New York City's economy, according to an influential transportation industry leader.

"I got to give a heads up to Lorne Michaels," said Jeff Rose, founder and president of Attitude New York on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

Michaels is the creator and Emmy award-winning executive producer of NBC's "Saturday Night Live." He also manages "The Tonight Show" and has an illustrious career producing NBC's primetime television sitcoms and dramas, late night talk shows and films.

"We do quite a bit of work for the late night talk shows," said Rose.

Attitude New York relies on the hospitality industry, chauffeuring A-listers to press events and dinners at restaurants across the city. Car and limousine services took a huge hit when the pandemic shut down Broadway and New York's hospitality and entertainment sector.

"All those shows getting back on the air were huge, not just for the work that they did, but because then, now that they're broadcasting live, it forces people who have projects to promote to come to the studio, and while they're in New York, they do other things," he explained. "Entertainment is something that has a huge multiplier effect on the transportation industry in New York, so props to all those people who got entertainment back on the air and helped revive the city's economy."

Tonight Show
An exterior view of 'The Tonight Show' at NBC Studios during the coronavirus pandemic on April 20, 2020 in New York City. Photo credit Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Rose told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso that his business was down 98 percent at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, but since last September, Attitude has roared back; although, it faces drastically different travel habits.

"Some of the not so strong operators are going to be out of it, but as I said, I think more capacity was lost than demand and when that demand comes back, I think it's going to be a very healthy situation as folks are much more interested in having a cleaner cars, more reliable," he said.

Attitude New York added long-distance trips to meet shifting demand away from airline travel and ride-sharing apps in which some people are apprehensive over the volume of passengers in a still raging pandemic.

"We got lots of calls from studios who were shooting movies up there to drive actors up to Montreal in Canada. We even had one case where we drove all the way from New York up to Plattsburgh, somebody flew in on a jet, and then, we just drove them across the border," said Rose, adding, "We had a secret weapon and that we had a chauffeur with dual citizenship. He held a Canadian passport. So we kind of became the go to operator for all these companies that had to get actors up to Montreal and Toronto to get to film sets."

Rose also serves as president of the Limo Association of New York and sits on the board of the National Limousine Association. His father imparted on him the value of philanthropy and explained to Connolly and Carousso his philosophy of giving back during tough times.

"Driving is the number one job in the country, not necessarily limousines or car service(s), but if you include truck drivers deliveries, FedEx, so on and so forth," he said. "This is a job that doesn't require a high school diploma, doesn't require a college degree, English can be your second language. This is an important industry for moving people around and for the jobs that it creates."

He welcomes people into his growing industry with open arms.

"That's one of the things I do to give back," Rose said.

New people entering the vast transportation industry will face several bumps in the road, including an unprecedented and fast change of travel habits and the move to electric vehicles.

Rose said on the Small Business Spotlight that executives at General Motors, Ford and Lincoln have told him there is not enough infrastructure, yet, to support a 50 percent national adoption this decade as the Biden Administration has proposed.

"They've said it's going to be a big problem in the Northeast. Electric cars are going to come on much more quickly in the South and much more slowly in the Northeast, and I asked about it. I said, 'Is that about climate?' They said no, it's about in congested cities, they don't have places to put charging stations. So, even if you had the charging stations, you don't have the power generation nor the transmission infrastructure ready to support a significant number of vehicles going electric," he explained.

See more on the future of New York's inter-connected transportation industry on the Small Business Spotlight video above.