Five fast-growing Sonoma County companies make Inc. 5000 list

  • Mitch Croll, right, dispatch supervisor at ProTransport-1, works with new employee Jennifer Ceynowa, a business development manager, at the ProTransport-1 communications center in Cotati on Wednesday, September 19, 2012.

At the dispatch center at ProTransport-1 on Wednesday, giant flat-screen monitors displayed the locations of the company's many medical transport vehicles in service throughout the Bay Area.

Employees in pairs were busy with training, a popular pastime at a company that's hiring a dozen or two new employees per week and handling 450 calls for service every day.

"It's really taken off like crazy," said Elena Whorton, president and co-founder of the firm. "We're on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We have a week-old patient coming in with 12 doctors that needs to be transported. We have a 1,200-pound patient that has to be moved."

The company, which offers medical transportation for hospitals and individuals, was one of five Sonoma County companies that made the Inc. 5000, a selection of the fastest-growing companies in the United States published annually by Inc. Magazine.

Headquartered in Rohnert Park, ProTransport-1 has 120 employees in Sonoma County. The rest of its 670 employees span counties from Sacramento to Santa Clara. Its annual revenues hit $39.4 million last year, up 72 percent over three years.

ProTransport-1 started in 2000, when founders Whorton and Mike Sechrist, CEO, who had both been emergency medical technicians for about 20 years, identified a need for a service to handle non-emergency medical transportation.

Traditionally, ambulance services handled emergency and non-emergency calls. But urgent traumas often trump less pressing — but still important — needs, like a trip to a dialysis appointment, Whorton said. The result: non-emergency patients who were chronically late for doctor appointments.

"If you're a 25-year-old guy getting a call to transport a little old lady, or you can go to a car accident where the media is out there, which call do you think he's going to do?" Whorton asked. "When you're late, it can really impact patients ... So we just bought two vans, a Chevy and a Ford, and turned them into gurneys."

In its first few years the company grew more than 50 percent annually, Sechrist said. Over the next five years, the company plans to triple its size and acquire more ambulance companies, he said.

"The need for what is considered general transport has become critical," Sechrist said.

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