Revolving loan fund program gives businesses a head start in Tennessee

These photos by Mike Williamson show the shed both before this project and after the restoration was completed.

Mike Williamson is a former Air Force mechanic from Lynchburg, Tennessee. After serving his country, he returned to his hometown and opened Lynchburg Machine Tool, which supplies tools and dies for the local automotive industry.

As his business grew, Mike traveled often to meet new clients. Incorporating his love of flying, he bought a company plane to better meet his growing travel needs. However, when not in use, Mike often serviced the aircraft outside his shop – something which caught the attention of several local pilots, who also hired him to service their aircraft.

Overnight, Mike found himself in charge of a fleet of 15 local planes, housed at the nearby Tullahoma Regional Airport. In response, he opened a second company, Williamson Aviation, which now maintains over 100 aircraft in the southeastern United States, including one aircraft from Austria.

“I wanted to consolidate the two businesses and stop going back and forth,” recalls Mike. “I originally wanted to build a new facility at the airport to house both operations, but a colleague of mine had a better idea.”

This idea was the renovation and restoration of an existing hangar built in 1941. During World War II it was used as a basic training center for recruits leaving for Europe. By the 1990s, however, the shed had fallen into disrepair and was now used for storage.

Mike saw great potential in the project, which he now needed funding for. A friend recommended that he contact the South Central Tennessee Development District (SCTDD), a local EDD funded by the EDA’s Revolving Loan Fund program. Since 1972, SCTDD has provided technical assistance and support to local governments to develop beneficial projects throughout Middle Tennessee. Mike met Eddie Fitzgerald, who worked with him to secure a $480,000 loan under the RLF program.

“The EDA process went really well, and it was really a group effort. It was great working with Eddie and a lot of people came out to help.

The restoration of the hangar began in May 2021 and took over a year. In addition to his previous businesses, it is also home to a third, Fly Direct Aviation, which Mike created through this project. The new company takes older planes and upgrades them with the latest aviation equipment.

If the workforce is often varied, the hangar now employs a dozen local workers. Thanks to Mike’s efforts, the US Department of the Interior recognized him on the National Register of Historic Places.

Tags: Small business development/RFL

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