Already a subscriber? Log in
- Unparalleled business coverage of the Iowa City / Cedar Rapids corridor.
- Immediate access to subscriber-only content on our website.
- 26 issues per year delivered digitally, in print or both.
- Support locally owned and operated journalism.
This year, Valentine’s Day will hold an extra layer of appreciation in the heart of one North-Liberty-based business owner. Feb. 14 marks the 35th anniversary Express Midwest, a limousine service company, first hit the open road in the Corridor. “My motivation was always my love for cars and vehicles,” said Mart Hutt, the owner and CEO of the company. “I did not know if a limousine business would work in this area, but it did.” Mr. Hutt’s first venture into a vehicular business began when he relocated to Iowa City to operate an ambulance service after being a paramedic and EMT in Des Moines. But when their contract with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was terminated, his business was suddenly disrupted. “The VA contract required new vehicles, which were purchased, and the government cutback eliminated the VA from providing transportation in and out of VA Iowa City – meaning funding was no longer available,” he explained. Starting over he went to Dallas to buy his first stretch limousine to begin his new business. By year two, he needed another one. His business specialized in special events like weddings and proms. Soon they expanded service to airport shuttles, sporting events, retirements and the corporate side of transportation. In addition, Express Midwest became a member of the National Limousine Association with 14 vehicles, including luxury sedans, SUVs, sprinters and limos. By 2007, they moved the business from Coralville to North Liberty and created the Black Diamond Limousine series for occasions that needed more than 15 passengers. There are currently five vehicles in this fleet by way of Hummers and various types of buses. Today, they can extend service throughout Iowa and across state lines, only possible through their Department of Transportation authorization status. One of the perks of running a limousine service for so many years, he says, is having the privilege of driving around celebrities like the Backstreet Boys and Hulk Hogan, to name a few. Erin Hutt, who works for the company, credits the company’s success to his dad’s direction. “We run on time,” he said. “We’re never late, and you know, running on time in this business is very crucial for airport pickups and departures. But the other thing is adapting to different changes is key.” There has been no shortage of challenges outside their control, as they’ve had to survive as a business following the 9/11 terror attacks and COVID-19. Both circumstances were unprecedented setbacks that required them to re-evaluate how they operate. “We’re still suffering from COVID-19,” said Mart Hutt. “And there’s a worker shortage, skyrocketing insurance costs and fuel increases.” Those fuel increases are prompting him to look into incorporating electric vehicles in the fleet as soon as the end of the year. Express Midwest is not done growing yet, as the company is exploring how to expand services into the Quad Cities. “There’s something about being around a limo that holds a special place in my heart because I’ve been around it my entire life,” said Erin Hutt. “We’re just local Iowa people, and we give that smile and a handshake, and that goes a long way with people.”