On any given day in Morgantown it can be extremely difficult to maneuver through the streets of this thriving metropolis. From the traffic generated by West Virginia University, local hospitals, small businesses and federal agencies, automobiles are everywhere.
Morgantown resident and businessman Ismail Latif didn’t see the traffic as a nuisance, but an opportunity. “With all the vehicles moving in and around Morgantown and the hectic pace of everyday life, car owners needed a place they could go for total car care.”
Latif did a bit of research and found that AAMCO, which was primarily focused on transmissions, was broadening their expertise to include total car care. He made a few inquiries and soon had the 54-year-old company interested in opening their new concept center in Morgantown.
In order to make the car care center a reality, Latif was going to need some capital. He had previously used Huntington National Bank to fund a Quiznos franchise in Morgantown through an U.S. Small Business Administration loan guarantee and put in a call to Stephanie Ellingson to see if the bank might be interested in the AAMCO project.
“The SBA 7(a) program is well suited for these types of expansions, especially when the hard assets in the project may not fully secure the loan,” said Ellingson.
Craig Street, SBA Lending Director at Huntington thought this would be a good project to use a SBA 7(a) loan guarantee. “The AAMCO project is another great example of how Huntington partners with the SBA to find ways to say YES to small business owners in West Virginia,” he said.
The business loans that SBA guarantees do not come from the agency, but rather from banks. The loans are funded by the lenders who make the decision to approve or disapprove an applicant’s request. The SBA guaranty reduces the lender’s risk of borrower non-payment and gives small businesses a flexible financing alternative when funding might not be otherwise available on reasonable terms.
The prototype built in Morgantown, which created 15 jobs, is referred to as a super center and highlights the company’s expertise in total car care. A typical AAMCO’s facility has six operating service bays and provides service work on transmissions, engines, brakes and suspension issues. The new prototype has eight bays, with two dedicated to quick services such as oil change and tire rotations. This allows customers to get in and out in about 30 minutes without having to wait for a bay to become available.
SBA Administrator Karen Mills and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin were both impressed during a visit in May. “SBA specializes in programs for franchisees and the AAMCO center in Morgantown is the ideal opportunity for us to help a small business entrepreneur like Ismail to get started,” said Mills.
Latif is appreciative of the opportunity he received through the SBA backed loan through Huntington National Bank. “I couldn’t have done the project without the assistance of the SBA,” he said. “It was also an honor that SBA Administrator Mills and Senator Manchin were able to tour the car care center right after we opened.”