Brent Jarboe and Marlin Jiranek have a passion for making guns and ammunition. They also love living in Elizabethtown.
“We have established great ties in Kentucky,” Jarboe said. “Our families are happy here, and we couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.”
Jarboe and Jiranek had the best of both worlds. They both worked as staff engineers for a global company involved in designing, developing and marketing state-of-the-art rifles, cartridges and ammunition. But when that company made the business decision to consolidate operations to another state, the men were at a crossroads. They had the option of moving with the company, but their desire to remain in Kentucky was stronger than the job offer.
“We knew we were going to be out of a job if we stayed in Elizabethtown, but Kentucky is our home, first and foremost,” said Jiranek. “We decided to explore our options.”
Setting out on their own
The men had an idea. What about forming their own ammunition component manufacturing company here in the Commonwealth? They already had the expertise and experience. Why couldn’t they continue to do what they love in the place they call home?
Jarboe and Jiranek teamed up with five other engineers who wanted to stay in the area to create Atlas Development Group (ADG). The goal of ADG is to become a Kentucky-based consultant and manufacturer of firearms and ammunition components for military and recreational use worldwide. Having more than 100 years of combined experience in a variety of engineering fields, the team was excited about its prospects.
“We felt very good about our idea, and we had great knowledge of the products and processes, but we knew nothing about starting or owning a business,” said Jiranek. “None of us had ever written a business plan before. It was clear we were going to need some support.”
State and local organizations lend a helping hand
Last summer, ADG reached out to the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development. The Cabinet helped the company evaluate its goals and needs and began connecting ADG to the state’s vast network of small business partners.
“There are so many opportunities for entrepreneurs in the Commonwealth,” said John Bevington, deputy commissioner of business development with the Cabinet. “Our goal is to help identify the programs and resources ADG needed to take its business to the next level.”
The Cabinet first connected the company to Patricia Krausman of the Small Business Development Center in Elizabethtown. The center helped the team develop a comprehensive plan, run projections and set goals for their business.
The Elizabethtown/Hardin County Industrial Foundation (EHCIF), the city’s economic development organization, also offered assistance. The foundation provided space for the company at a local incubator, which allowed Atlas to start building its client base and broker deals.
“We were very excited to help ADG start up its business,” said Rick Games, president of EHCIF. “Keeping the best and brightest in Elizabethtown is an important part of our mission. We wanted to do everything we could to help the company get off the ground and become successful.”
With a plan in place, ADG now needed funding. Initially, the company had a tough time finding the right financing options. That’s when the Cabinet offered support through the Kentucky Small Business Credit Initiative (KSBCI). KSBCI is designed to help encourage banks to provide capital for an entrepreneur or small business whose loan request falls just outside the normal lending criteria.
By utilizing KSBCI, the Cabinet was able to connect ADG with First Citizens Bank of Elizabethtown, a certified participating lender, and the company was approved for the loan it needed to take the next step. ADG also received a low-interest-rate loan through the Lincoln Trail Area Development District based upon the company creating new jobs in the area.
“Getting financial support was a real turning point for us,” said Jarboe. “Everything was falling into place. We started to realize that our dream was becoming reality.”
“ADG’s experience shows how committed we are in Kentucky to supporting and growing businesses,” said Governor Steve Beshear. “We make every effort to be a one-stop-shop for business needs. We’ve got a strong national and international reputation for our business-friendly focus, and we’ve won awards for our work. We’re glad ADG is part of Kentucky’s economic development success story.”
ADG ready for its first shot
Almost a year after making the decision to form ADG, Jarboe, Jiranek and the team are preparing to set out on their own. The company has ordered manufacturing equipment and is planning to move into its own facility by the end of 2015. They also plan to hire 18 additional employees.
The state is helping in that endeavor too. The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority preliminarily approved ADG for tax incentives of up to $315,000 through the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based incentive allows a company to keep a portion of its investment over the term of the agreement through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments by meeting job and investment targets.
ADG also plans to continue to utilize some of the state’s entrepreneurship programs. The company is working with the Elizabethtown office of the Kentucky Innovation Network to identify new opportunities for capital and assistance with marketing and access to other small business resources.
The company also has applied for a federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant, which ADG hopes to use to develop a stabilization device for target designators. If ADG receives the federal grant, the company will apply for Kentucky’s SBIR matching funds program this summer. Kentucky’s matching funds program is recognized as one of best in the nation for high-tech companies looking to develop revolutionary products.
The perfect partnership
ADG is well on its way to becoming a successful business, and the company credits the myriad of support from the state and locals for helping make their dream come true.
“This experience has been amazing,” said Jarboe. “From helping develop a plan, to teaching the fundamentals of starting a business, to offering office space, lending support, tax credits and small business assistance, the state and Etown have done more for us than we ever imagined. They have been instrumental to our success.”
Jiranek agrees. “If you want to start a business, look no further than Kentucky,” he said. “This place is home to us, and with the continued support, ADG will become a fixture in the Commonwealth for years to come.”
Learn more about Atlas Development Group at www.atlasdg.com.
To learn more about how Kentucky is helping small businesses succeed, visit www.ThinkKentucky.com.
The Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development is the primary state agency responsible for encouraging new jobs and investment in the state. New capital investment announced in Kentucky in 2014 totaled a state record $3.7 billion, spurring more than 15,000 projected new jobs. The Commonwealth also received Site Selection magazine’s nationally acclaimed Governor’s Cup for most economic development projects per capita last year. Information on available industrial properties, workforce development assistance, incentive programs, community profiles, small business development and other economic development resources is available at www.ThinkKentucky.com.