Economic Transformation News

Small Business & Technology Development Center Helps Boost Business

From The Mount Airy News:

Local manufacturer, banker presented with SBA awards

by Meghann Evans
June 16, 2011

<p>Meghann Evans/The News</p><p>Lynn L. Douthett, Small Business Administration N.C. District director, presents David O&#8217;Neal, president and chief executive officer of Leonard Buildings and Truck Accessories, with a special award for the company&#8217;s job creation and economic development.</p>

Meghann Evans/The News

Lynn L. Douthett, Small Business Administration N.C. District director, presents David O’Neal, president and chief executive officer of Leonard Buildings and Truck Accessories, with a special award for the company’s job creation and economic development.

In a time when many businesses have been forced to lay off workers, the state office of the U.S. Small Business Administration has recognized a local manufacturer and community banker for their efforts to create jobs and help local businesses.

Lynn L. Douthett, director of the SBA North Carolina District, was present in Mount Airy on Wednesday to present David O’Neal, president and chief executive officer of Leonard Buildings and Truck Accessories, with an award for job creation and economic development. She also presented John R. Canosa, vice president of Surrey Bank and Trust, with the SBA 2011 Financial Services Champion of the Year for the state of North Carolina award.

The presentation was made at the Leonard Buildings headquarters in Mount Airy, and representatives from the Surry County Board of Commissioners, city of Mount Airy, Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce, Surry County Economic Development Partnership, and other agencies and businesses were present to see the awards ceremony.

Leonard Buildings received the special recognition plaque given to small businesses for exemplary achievement in economic development. The business, which produces portable storage units and trailers in Mount Airy for its 50 factory outlets in the southern United States, has hired 57 additional employees in Mount Airy since the beginning of 2010.

O’Neal said, “We’re here today because of the support of our partners … Our team worked hard to meet the challenges of the past year.”

Mount Airy Mayor Deborah Cochran attended the awards presentation. She said, “It represents hope for the whole community.”

Though Leonard Buildings was hit hard by the downturn in the economy, it now has a success story. Douthett said of stories like Leonard’s, “It’s what makes America great.”

O’Neal said with the recent downturn in the economy, the company was forced to revisit how it does business and figure out how to cut costs. In 2009, sales in its retail locations were down 30 percent. Marketing Director T.J. Glover was looking for solutions and learned about the North Carolina Small Business and Technology Development Center, a free counseling service funded by SBA and the University of North Carolina.

The center helped Leonard Buildings assess its needs, which included improving its use of the Internet sales and selling to state and federal governmental agencies. The SBTDC also made Leonard Buildings executives aware of a N.C. Workforce Development Board grant to provide technical training for management skills. The grant enabled the company to start a rent-to-own business model and expand product lines. This allowed the business to hire 57 additional employees, a 22-percent increase which brought the company’s total number of employees to a little more than 300. About two-thirds of those employees work in Mount Airy, according to O’Neal.

The company also obtained a $1 million SBA guaranteed loan from Surrey Bank and Trust at the beginning of this year, which allowed the company to expand its highly successful rent-to-own program. With all of the changes in the company, Leonard Buildings saw its building sales double from 2009 to 2010. In 2011, the business has seen 50-percent growth in its rent-to-own program from 2010.

Paul Johnson, chairman of the Surry County Board of Commissioners, was present for the ceremony. He said, “I think that there’s not another company more deserving. They’ve worked hard to get to where they are.”

He continued, “They’re an aggressive company, so they’re only going to grow as the economy continues to grow.”

Canosa of Surrey Bank and Trust has worked on projects with the SBA for many years, and he was also recognized for his efforts Wednesday. He received an award in recognition of his active support to help community businesses. Canosa said he also has received the same champion award in Virginia, so now he has one for each state.

He said, “I have a very good relationship with the SBA.”

Douthett said, “John (Canosa) has exemplified what our local banks represent.”

Canosa has taught many financial and business workshops at Surry Community College, Patrick Community College, Surry Central High School and area churches.

Surrey Bank and Trust also has received many awards from the administration. Douthett said, “Surrey Bank and Trust is a great partner.”

Canosa said, “It is fun working for a bank that has commitment … (It’s) committed to small businesses.”

After the awards ceremony on Wednesday for Leonard Buildings and Canosa, people could enjoy refreshments or tour the Leonard Buildings manufacturing facility and warehouse.

The U.S. Small Business Administration provides loan programs and other services for small businesses throughout the nation. Its North Carolina district office is in Charlotte. It presents special recognitions periodically to businesses that have received significant SBA loans and have created jobs in the community. To learn more about Small Business Technology and Development Centers across the state, visit http://www.sbtdc.org.  For more information about the SBA, visit www.sba.gov.