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Louis J. DeLamarter: Can he save a dying industry?
Journal of Management History
  • Regina A. Greenwood, Nova Southeastern University
  • Charles D. Wrege
  • Peter Gordon
  • John Joos
Document Type
Purpose – This paper aims to acquaint readers with Louis J. DeLamarter and the innovative strategies he used to extend the profitability of the street railway in the USA. Design/methodology/approach – Initially the researchers were interested in street railways (trolleys) and why they had flourished in Grand Rapid, Michigan when they were failing in other parts of the USA. Extensive research in local and national newspapers, business journals and trade publications of the time led to the story of Louis J. DeLamarter. His innovative approach to running the street railway in Grand Rapids MI emerged as the cause of the Grand Rapids Railway Company's unique, though temporary, success. Findings – DeLamarter conceived and implemented a number of innovative marketing practices which were rooted in a differentiation strategy: he focused on the customer whereas other transportation companies did not. His strategy made the company successful after others became bankrupt. His ideas were lauded in the industry, adopted, and are still used in public transportation today. Only external factors such as the depression, the advent of the automobile and burdensome regulations undermined his success. Research limitations/implications – Despite extensive searches, no original papers by DeLamarter could be located. Practical implications – Public service companies worldwide can learn about the importance of customer focus from DeLamarter's work. Additionally, managers can learn that even the most successful innovative strategy will only yield a short‐term competitive advantage if the industry faces unfavorable external factors. Originality/value – The story of Louis J. DeLamarter and his innovations in public transportation are presented for the first time.
Citation Information
Regina A. Greenwood, Charles D. Wrege, Peter Gordon and John Joos. "Louis J. DeLamarter: Can he save a dying industry?" Journal of Management History Vol. 15 Iss. 2 (2010) p. 134 - 146
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