If you’re like me, you wonder about odd things when you’re driving through southeast Georgia. Things like: who changes the blinking lights on those signal towers? Who maintains them? Does someone have to climb those towers to change the signal bulbs ensuring aircraft safety?
For a large part of southeast Georgia and parts of South Carolina, the person scaling the tower is Thomas Smith of Southern Tower Services. “T.C.” is a Georgia boy and began his career serving in the U.S. Navy as an electronics tech. He worked for tower companies for several years and decided in mid-2009 that it was time to try it on his own. “Mind you, I do not like paperwork. But with the support of family and friends, I established an LLC and set up all the official type things you need to get started,” explains T.C. “I went to the Eastman Chamber of Commerce in Dodge County where I met Michelle Wright with the UGA’s Small Business Development Center. She referred me to the Small Business Assistance Corporation(SBAC) and the rest is history.”
Southern Tower Services utilized two loan programs for working capital – the USDA Intermediary Relending Program (IRP) and the SBA Microloan program. The USDA- IRP loan program covers 13 counties in Southeast Georgia and can be used for business acquisition, construction, leasehold improvements, working capital, furniture & fixtures, inventory, supplies, machinery & equipment and refinance of existing debt. It has a maximum loan amount of $150,000, however, these funds must be blended with a participating lender (aka, a bank).
The SBAC administers the SBA Microloan program in 53 counties in southeast Georgia and 3 in South Carolina. Funds may be used for working capital, purchase of inventory, supplies, furniture/fixtures, raw materials and machinery/equipment. The maximum loan amount is $50,000, but may be combined with a bank loan for total financing of $105,000.
“T.C. is truly passionate about his work. His eyes, his face light up when he gets to talk about what he does. As a loan officer, those moments are the best part of my job,” explained Debra Simmons, Community Development Officer at the SBAC. “He had a solid business plan, the experience and a contract for business – all elements that contribute to the future success of Southern Tower Services.”
“They are great!” T.C. says of the SBAC. “I have future plans to expand my business once I’ve finished paying off my start-up loan.”
His advice is simple: if you decide to start your own business, please make sure you do it out of love for what you do and not simple desire for money…happiness is key to success in life, not money.