SBA Honors Go to Area Veteran
DUBOIS, Pa. – In 1997, Navy veteran Matthew White worked at his stepfather’s business. Rather than a paycheck, he received two line-painting machines. More than 20 years later, White still believes he got the better deal.
The machines and a pickup truck enabled White to start AZTEC Linear – his own line-painting company. White, now 52, is the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Western Pa. Veteran-Owned Small Businessperson of the Year. His award coincides with the agency’s celebration of National Veterans Small Business Week, Nov. 2-6.
“This award means a lot to me, especially as a veteran,” White said. “I may be at the center of the company, but it’s really about my 17-member team who put their blood, sweat and tears into their jobs.”
Since founding AZTEC Linear as a three-person shop, appropriately named after the first civilization to create and use streets, White has seen sales and employment swell. The company now uses 15 vehicles coupled with 50 pieces of additional equipment to line stadium lots, airports, and roadways from Pennsylvania to Virginia. His skilled team is rewarded with competitive salaries, bonuses, full, free healthcare, and a 10 percent match to their retirement plan.
White, who chose his business moniker for better advertising placement in telephone directories, now spends winter downtime utilizing a new marketing tool — bidding on federal projects. Using his status as a certified Veteran-Owned Small Business (available to small businesses that are majority-owned and managed by a veteran directly involved in the day-to-day operations), and assistance from the Clarion University Small Business Development Center (SBDC), he became a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation-certified contractor, enabling him to land his largest federal contract.
“We were lining roads in Virginia at Fort Lee and 90 miles of Skyline Drive in Shenandoah,” he added. “Skyline Drive took almost a month to complete and that was the largest monetary contract we’ve been awarded.”
The SBDC and First Commonwealth Bank teamed up to nominate White for this award.
“Congratulations to Matthew and all of his team at AZTEC Linear,” said Dave Reed, Community PA Regional President at First Commonwealth Bank.
“First Commonwealth has built a strong banking relationship with AZTEC Linear, it was without reservation that we joined in as one of the nominators on this very deserving distinction. Matthew has shown leadership and dedication to his country during his Naval career and has transitioned those skills and acumen to successes in the business world.”
“Matt has tapped into many resources from the SBDC over the years effectively utilizing our services,” stated Corry Riley, SBDC Business Consultant. “We are happy to see Matt recognized for building such a successful business with excellent job opportunities.”
SBDCs are SBA- and state-funded entities helping entrepreneurs in every phase of development. In the last year, Clarion University SBDC assisted approximately 740 clients across 10 counties.
White’s roadside success belies his humble beginnings painting lines in area parking lots after school and during summers for five dollars an hour.
“I enjoyed it because I was making more than minimum wage and I was always busy…it’s really an art,” he added. “It’s a system of measuring and precision combined with a learned skill, like correctly throwing a football.”
But it was after his first semester at Penn State University that propelled White to change course and enlist in the Navy.
“I needed to move on and learn discipline and found that in the Navy,” he said. “I was on the submarine force and the best at my navigation job. After I was honorably discharged in 1992, I went back to work for my family because they needed my help.”
According to Air Force veteran and SBA Western Pa District Director Dr. Kelly Hunt, veterans often can transition their military skills into small business ownership.
“They are risk-takers, proactive, and the best problem solvers,” she explained. “Veteran entrepreneurship has been one of my top priorities since being appointed to lead the district more than six years ago.”
During the pandemic’s peak, White decided to use the SBA’s COVID-19 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to offset losses from canceled contracts to ensure no employee would be unemployed. He was one of more than 170,519 Pennsylvania PPP loan recipients receiving $20.632 billion dollars helping offset payroll, rent, utilities, and healthcare payments.
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