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SBA Loans and Counseling Help Rural North Carolina Manufacturer Grow and Create Jobs
Leonard USA is creating jobs in rural Surry County where unemployment was as high as 13% in recent years. The firm builds portable storage units and trailers at its plants in Mount Airy. These and truck accessories are sold from 51 factory outlets in and around North Carolina. Leonard was approved for it's second $1,000,000 SBA Loan through Surrey Bank & Trust in December 2011.
The recent economic downturn hit Leonard Buildings hard. In 2009, sales in their retail locations were down 30%. President David O’Neal knew the company had to revisit how it does business and figure out how to cut costs. Marketing Director TJ Glover was looking for solutions and learned about the North Carolina Small Business & Technology Development Center (SBTDC). The SBTDC is a free counseling service funded by SBA and the University of North Carolina.
TJ contacted the SBTDC Winston-Salem Office, and worked with Director Blair and counselor Bion Schulken. SBTDC helped the Leonard management team assess the company’s strategic needs. Counselors started them on a course to increase sales through effective use of the internet and selling to state and federal government agencies.
The SBTDC advised the firm about a North Carolina Workforce Development Board matching grant to provide technical training for management skills. This grant enabled the firm to initiate a Rent to Own business model and expand product lines which greatly increased sales. This enabled them to hire 57 additional employees, a 22% increase. Leonard now employs 310.
“The business expertise provided by the SBTDC has been invaluable,” said O’Neal. “They assisted in clarifying our goals and developing action plans to execute.”
As a result of this assistance Leonard doubled its building sales from 2009 to 2010. In 2011, the firm saw a 50% increase the new Rent-To-Own program. Leonard also established a government sales strategy with a full-time person assigned to manage this program.
In need of additional capital to implement their new strategy, they obtained their first $1,000,000 SBA Guaranteed Loan from Surrey Bank & Trust in January 2011. This loan enabled them to support and expand the Rent to Own Program.