By Shannon Furniss
“I can tell you I’ve been to almost every state, and I’ve yet to find a place I’d rather live.”
– Jason Corbally, president of Education Logistics, Inc. in Missoula, Montana
Getting female students and teachers to school in Saudi Arabia – a country where women are prohibited from driving and must be accompanied while in public – can sometimes be challenging. If a chaperone or driver is unavailable, females are unable to get to school. A Montana company with leading edge technology has spent the past two years working on a project involving 2 million students (most of whom are girls) and 30,000 school buses to ensure that these young women have the opportunity to get an education.
In recent years, the Saudi Arabian government has made substantial investments in education, with a special emphasis on getting girls educated and into the workforce, according to Jason Corbally, president of Missoula’s Education Logistics, Inc. (Edulog). Developing a dedicated school bus system will help solve some of these transportation challenges for females and help all students get to school safely and efficiently, he said. It also will help reduce traffic congestion, he said, adding that “the latest statistics tell us that one school bus takes 50 cars off the road.”
With nearly 40 years in pupil transportation systems, Edulog has contracted with the Saudi Arabian government on a project to improve the efficiency of the country’s school bus system. Edulog serves as the technology arm, helping with school bus routing, scheduling, GPS tracking, and student tracking. A number of other consulting firms from around the world are working on the infrastructural and operational needs of Saudi school buses.
Located in a renovated sugar beet plant behind Target in Missoula, the Saudi government chose Edulog to work on this project because of the innovative technology that they’ve developed over the years.
From Pins on Maps to Sophisticated Software
When Edulog began in 1977, school districts were determining bus routes by putting pins on maps and trying to string them together. Today, Edulog uses sophisticated software that it has developed to help clients in at least 1,000 school districts across the U.S. and Canada to route 150,000+ school buses every day. Finding more efficient bus routes saves millions of dollars, said Corbally, citing recent projects in Miami, Toronto, Toledo, Atlanta, and Memphis.
“Keeping a bus on the road is expensive – a new bus costs around $100,000,” he said. “Transportation is anywhere between 5 percent and 8 percent of an overall school district budget. The goal is to save money and put it back into the classroom.”
In addition to routing and scheduling software, Edulog’s product line includes boundary planning, enrollment projection, driver payroll, vehicle inspection, field trip management, fleet maintenance, GPS tracking, student tracking, and consulting services.
Corbally’s first introduction to Edulog was in 2004 while pursuing an accounting degree at the University of Montana’s School of Business Administration. An intern in Edulog’s accounting department, Corbally quickly moved up the ranks to marketing and sales. By 2009, Corbally was the director of sales and then a year later, he become vice president of business development. By 2011, Corbally became Edulog’s president and one of the company’s youngest executives at age 27. The Butte native now leads the rapidly growing company with nearly 130 employees in Missoula and around 30 subcontractors living outside the state.
In the last month, Corbally has hired 10 new employees who are working in software development, project management, quality control/quality assurance, support, and training. Most of these new hires will be based in Atlanta, a major transportation hub where Edulog is building another office that will work with the Missoula operation.
Building New Technologies for New Markets: From Frenchtown to Dubai
One reason for Edulog’s growth is the new innovations that it brings to market, said Corbally who travels all over the U.S., Canada, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa to meet with clients, identify their needs, and come back home to work with the development team on new products.
GPS technology that Edulog developed to track students as they move on and off the bus has become increasingly popular in school systems. Parents can install an app on their phones to find out exactly what time their child will arrive at the bus stop and get messages about route or schedule changes. In addition to empowering parents, it also reduces the number of phone calls to school districts, said Corbally. In Montana, Missoula’s Hellgate Elementary uses the software and so does Frenchtown, but Edulog does most of its business out of state – and around the world.
The project in Saudi Arabia provides Edulog with the opportunity to “take our wealth of knowledge we’ve built over all these years and bring it to a market that’s in early stages,” said Corbally. It also gives the company the chance to address technology issues and build new software.
Another Middle East project – in Dubai – has allowed Edulog to partner with government and multi-billion dollar companies like IBM, Microsoft, Cisco, and Esri (a mapping company) to work on “the most expansive and technologically advanced solution that school buses have ever seen,” he said. Along with these Fortune 500 companies, Edulog will work to improve school bus efficiency in Dubai.
“In traditional Dubai fashion, there is a lot of glitz and glamor,” from reader boards that will display students’ names on the outside of the bus when it arrives, to cameras, wifi, and TV screens for educational learning, said Corbally. While Edulog has focused on routing, scheduling, GPS tracking, and student tracking, it has been an opportunity to partner with industry giants to help build a world class system, he said.
“All of the companies are really looking at this as the flagship of the rest of the world – how to implement a school bus system in a huge city.”
No Place Like Home
In recent years high-tech companies are popping up all over Montana, and finding talented software developers is a challenge, according to Corbally. Some of the work Edulog’s president is doing as a committee co-chair on the “Main Street Montana Project,” is addressing workforce issues. A newly formed partnership with the University of Montana will allow Edulog to train workers for Middle East projects and may help the university attract international students to campus. An Edulog class that focuses on project management, GIS mapping, implementation services, and use of Edulog’s system will be offered at the university in the spring of 2016.
While Corbally enjoys traveling to visit with his clients, Grizzly football, golfing, skiing, and other outdoor activities keep him in Montana. He and his wife, Ashley, have two sons – Peyton (4) and Liam (2 months). “I’ve never lived anywhere but Montana,” he said. “I can tell you I’ve been to almost every state, and I’ve yet to find a place I’d rather live.”
Photo Caption for Top Image: With more than 35 years in the business, Montana company Education Logistics, Inc. (Edulog) is the world leader in school bus routing software. Edulog’s new contract in Saudi Arabia will help bus women to school. Butte native Jason Corbally leads the rapidly growing company with nearly 130 employees in Missoula and around 30 subcontractors living outside the state.
About the Author: Shannon Furniss is a Missoula-area journalist and communications specialist. Ms. Furniss is currently the communications director at the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research and the editor of the Montana Business Quarterly. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Montana.
About the Publisher: The Montana High Tech Business Alliance is a statewide membership organization made up of more than 190 high tech and manufacturing firms and affiliates. More information on the Alliance can be found at: www.MTHighTech.org.