When Stan Greene was ready to retire from his business, Greene Machine and Manufacturing in Macon, he asked Larry Collins, with whom he had worked for about 20 years, if he would be interested in purchasing the business.
Before making a decision, Larry and his wife, Gwen, attended a class for start-ups offered by the University of Georgia SBDC and began working with an SBDC consultant to review the purchase agreement and options for funding.
“Our consultant was helpful in reviewing the agreement and talking about cash flow,” said Larry Collins. “He presented us with information on SBA loan products. We did the paperwork for an SBA express loan for working capital, submitted it the day after we signed the purchase agreement and were able to get funding within 30 days.”
“In just two months, we owned the company,” said Gwen Collins. “If it wasn’t for the SBDC, we wouldn’t have known about the SBA loan. It was pretty phenomenal how quickly that transpired.”
They continued meeting regularly with the SBDC. A few years later, when they began looking into ways to expand their work on government contracts they enlisted the help of SBDC Consultant Lisa Rackley to begin evaluating SBA certification programs.
Rackley worked with them on the WBENC (Women’s Business Enterprise National Council) and 8(a) Business Development certifications.
“The 8(a) application process is pretty intense,” said Rackley. “The U.S. Small Business Administration does a thorough review of the application to determine if the business should receive 8(a) certification. Gwen worked very hard to make it happen.”
Greene Machine was awarded its certification in 2013. Sales growth remained steady until 2015, when the Department of Defense came calling.
“We got a call out of the blue from the Navy asking if we could manufacture ground support equipment for the H-1 helicopter. They found us in the government’s dynamic small business search engine, and that opened the door,” said Larry Collins.
The contract required the Collins find financing quickly to buy equipment and expand their physical plant. They turned to Rackley again for help in updating their financial analysis. She introduced them to consultant Josh Walton.
“Josh is a good sounding board,” Gwen Collins said. “He offered us alternate ideas that have since been instrumental to our growth.”
The Collins purchased a 33,000-square-foot building for their fabrication shop in late 2017. They also expanded their facility by 15,000 square feet to support a growing precision machine shop. They will soon incorporate a new quality lab and establish new offices to support more employees. Gwen Collins also attended the SBDC’s GrowSMART® program, where she learned the importance of networking.
“In our industry, traditional marketing isn’t that effective,” she said. “The SBDC brings larger commercial prime companies into their networking events. This provides a matchmaking forum for small businesses to connect with procurement representatives from the large primes and has given us exposure we would not have had otherwise.”
Greene Machine’s sales have increase by 44 percent each year for the past three years and employment has grown from 5 to 25. Reflecting this growth, Greene Machine recently filed a DBA name change to Collins Manufacturing Company, further establishing a family legacy for their sons to carry on.
“We plan to continue to grow and support the Department of Defense as best we can while also focusing our efforts on expanding our commercial customer base,” said Larry Collins. “And we’ll keep in touch with Lisa and the SBDC.”