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Patriot Express initiative helping veterans’ business dreams

Navy veteran Donnie Tinsley worked at Fast Eddie’s oil change business at 908 Bechtel Boulevard in Ocean Springs for 15 years in every position at the business when recently the owner, Eddie Norris, decided to retire and sell out. Tinsley was debating about going to work for a new owner when he became aware of the opportunity to receive funding to purchase the business himself through the Patriot Express Pilot Loan Initiative.

In late August Tinsley became the first person in the state to receive a Patriot Loan to purchase a business. Janita Stewart, U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) district director for Mississippi, presented the $500,000 Patriot Express check to Tinsley in late August.

“We’ve received a remarkable amount of support for Patriot Express from the lending and military communities since the program was launched,” Stewart said during the check presentation. “I am particularly pleased by the short time it has taken our banking community to begin processing and approving loans under this initiative for veterans. “

After loan applications are approved by the bank, they are submitted to SBA for approval which typically occurs within 24-hours. More than 500 banks and lending institutions nationwide have been approved to participate in Patriot Express.

Tinsley said when the former owner decided to retire, it was a good opportunity to get into the business.

“I figured I would give it a shot,” said Tinsley, whose father — also a Navy veteran — co-signed on the loan. “I have done every position here except be the owner. It was time to step up. I’ve been a mechanic, cashier, a pit guy and a squally, which is the guy who checks the air in the tires and vacuums out the car.”

Tinsley said the Patriot Express loan made it possible for him to make a purchase that probably wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

“It really helped me out,” he said.

Service in the military can be good preparation for owning a business. Tinsley said the military experience teaches responsibility and attention to detail. It can also provide valuable skills training that translates well to civilian businesses.

Tinsley knows many of his customers by their first name, and values the trust they show in him.

“If I see a problem with one of my customer’s cars, I usually feel comfortable fixing it,” Tinsley said. “We might point out something that is a problem, but we won’t scare you and pressure you into a sale. We have a trust relationship with customers. We get a lot of customers, mainly women, coming from Vancleave. I take that as a compliment that they drive 20 miles and go by three other quick lubes to get here.”

Gary K. Reed, SBA Veteran Development officer for Mississippi, said the Patriot Express loan program is designed to serve those who are serving America.

“The reason the SBA administrator introduced this program on Flag Day in June of this year was to announce we were in fact gearing up programs to help those who are serving our nation,” Reed said. “Those who qualify for this program are people in the military community including veterans, disabled veterans, reservists and National Guard members. There are also a lot of people who are transitioning out of the military who are going through the Transition Assistance Program. They, too, are eligible for this program. The spouses of all those groups are eligible. And the widowed spouses of these military members are also eligible.”

Many members of the military retire after 20 years of service, which leaves many more years that they could be involved in the workforce. The new loan program is an attractive option for those who want to be their own boss.
“We have taken the best of the SBA programs and put it all into this program,” Reed said. “It offers the fastest turn around time for loan approval, while also offering the SBA guaranteed maximum of 85% on loans up to $150,000, and 75% for up to $500,000.”

SBA loans guarantee that banks making the loans are covered up to the percentage designated should applicants default on the loan. Reed said the SBA guarantee makes borrowing possible for applicants that might have issues with business experience, collateral or credit.

“The SBA steps in and offers to guarantee a percentage of that loan,” Reed said. “In the event a business defaults on the loan, the SBA will cover that loan, paying the lender back at that percentage. The guarantee allows a lot of projects to go forward that would have stalled or perhaps not even happened at all.”

To inquire about a Patriot Express loan, contact Reed at (228) 863-4449, extension 23. More information including a list of approved lenders is available at www.sba.gov/patriotexpress/.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette4@cox.net.

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