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Opinion: A tale of a chance encounter — and a new ride-hailing service

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Amid the day-to-day minutia, it can be difficult to see the forest for the trees.

The same is true at Springfield Business Journal, where the impact of the articles published isn’t always immediately known.

How much does writing about a company influence its business dealings and the greater economy as a whole? It’s tough to quantify, and while my job is to report factually and impartially about business news, sometimes we see the direct impact.

One example came recently, when Cape Girardeau-based carGO Technologies LLC, a rival to the likes of Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Postmates, announced plans to enter the Springfield market.

My experience with carGO started as a chance encounter.

On a trip to Cape Girardeau last spring, I found that not only did carGO exist, but also it was thriving and beating its cash-flush, ride-hailing rivals at their own game. So much so, that Uber and Lyft were basically nonexistent in the market.

I returned home and penned a column about the experience in July 2018 – “In SEMO, alternate app trumps Uber, Lyft” – pointing to the company’s ability to compete against multibillion-dollar competitors and use technology, such as search engine optimization, in its favor.

That fall, I was contacted by an executive of the company, who wanted to meet after reading my column. He was headed to Springfield anyway on what turned out to be a fact-finding mission on the validity of the business in this market.

Fast forward to this year, and carGO southwest Missouri President Dave Coble reached out with embargoed information that the company indeed was coming to Springfield. My column, he said, was a factor in the decision.

I suspect it was minor, as carGO already had been eyeing the southwest Missouri area. But the timeline of events was truly unique to my nearly nine years at SBJ.

Most importantly, Springfieldians will have another choice. Capitalism works best when that’s the case, and I look forward to seeing the results of carGO’s market entry.

In Cape Girardeau, it’s like the Springfield Cardinals beating the New York Yankees, to use a baseball analogy. Will the same thing happen here? Uber, Lyft and delivery firms like DoorDash have a head start. Also, it’s worth noting a would-be competitor in local food delivery service QuikDine.com shut down Jan. 4, but its rival, Springfield-based Lightning Delivery, continues to operate.

For carGO, if the service is comparable and the prices similar, Springfield residents may be persuaded to choose the company with people on the ground. It will be interesting to see the food delivery dynamic play out with Lightning Delivery, which of course has an established local footprint.

April 1 is the planned launch date for carGO, which offers rides and delivery of food, alcohol and small packages through customers’ smartphones. A key differentiator, says Coble, is a team of local customer service agents working out of office space in downtown’s Wilhoit Plaza.

“We have customer service here in Springfield that’s live and watching every aspect of the delivery through the app,” he told me for a breaking news article SBJ published March 11.

Since launching in 2017, the company has expanded into Poplar Bluff and southern Illinois and completed nearly 200,000 deliveries and rides, according to materials provided by the company.

Time will tell in Springfield, but I think it’s got a chance.

Springfield Business Journal Web Producer Geoff Pickle can be reached at gpickle@sbj.net.

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