The job training an enlistee receives from the armed forces can lead to beneficial post-military life. Bill Hanf’s, owner of Green Mountain Avionics, career began when he was a private in the U.S. Marine Corps.
When Hanf decided to join the Marines, his father was supportive, but wanted him the get a guaranteed Military Occupational Specialty. The two looked over career fields and avionics appealed to the younger Hanf. Avionics are the electronic components of a plane such as navigation, communications, weather and radar.
“The Marine Corps was good for me and I liked it. The Corps solidified my work ethic,” said Hanf.
After a six year stint in the service, Hanf decided to stay in the avionics career field. He took a job in southern California with Cessna working primarily on Citations and years later Cessna promoted him to their New York office. While working in New York, Hanf came home to Vermont as often as he could. Eventually he wanted to make it permanent, so he took an avionics position in Burlington.
After working for other organizations for more than 20 years, Hanf decided to strike out on his own. Hanf decided to attend Start Your Own Business in Middlebury. SYOB is a four-hour workshop sponsored by the Vermont Small Business Development Center.
“I did not just jump into this. I saw a void, I knew the customer base and I just knew I could fill it,” said Hanf. “Other businesses had good maintenance services, but few truly specialized in avionics and fewer could do the comprehensive installation, troubleshooting, testing, and inspections.”
In 2011, Hanf started Green Mount Avionics at the Middlebury Airport. He rented a space at a neighboring business and performed all the work himself. As demand increased, Hanf knew he needed help.
Hanf’s workforce is unique because he has been able to employ tradesman with electrical and mechanical backgrounds who were not utilizing their specific skill sets before they came to GMA. Today GMA employs five fulltime employees.
“Bill has a very specific skill set, and has been able to hire several employees with similar skill sets who were previously under-employed. Customers of the business come primarily from the northeast, but some have come long distances for GMA’s services. Demand is certainly there, and the company has built a good reputation in the industry,” said Christopher Lapierre, National Bank of Middlebury.
Through National Bank of Middlebury, Hanf has secured three SBA 7(a) guaranteed loans, the first of which was used to get GMA started. The 7(a) Loan Program is the SBA’s most common loan program. The proceeds may be used to establish a new business or to assist in the acquisition, operation, or expansion of an existing business.
Hanf has used the successive loans to purchase an existing hangar, lease a new hangar and purchase equipment and inventory.
According to Hanf, most service is done onsite in Middlebury, but the company aircraft, a Cessna C-172, flies to other airports so GMA can perform on-location work. The C-172 is also used to demonstrate what GMA can do for private plane owners, because it is outfitted with all of the latest systems. Business has increased annually and projects are currently being booked months in advance.
For growing his business and hiring employees, GMA is awarded the 2015 Vermont Veteran-Owned Business of the Year.