“The devil is in the details.” That’s what Scott White, the facility manager for Walker Emulsions [USA Inc.], would tell you about his first encounter preparing a federal government loan application. The events leading up to White’s epiphany date back to 2014; the year Walker Emulsions established a site in Orangeburg. The company is quite unique in that it not only takes pride in manufacturing superior asphalt and industrial emulsions; it is equally proud to be an environmental steward.
In fact, to enhance the efficiency of its 53,000 sq. ft. facility, the company installed 261 LED light fixtures and added automated timing and dimming features to the existing system. Whereas the original impetus driving this initiative was to conserve resources, Jim Johnson, director of the South Carolina State University region for the South Carolina Small Business Development Centers (SC SBDC), identified a benefit unforeseen by the Walker Emulsions leadership team.
Having attended a presentation by the USDA’s State Director for Rural Development, Johnson was well-informed about the agency’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). So when Jim learned that Walker Emulsions was self-funding initiatives to create a more eco-friendly work environment, Jim informed the company that it qualified for a USDA-sponsored REAP grant.
Jim’s revelation of this fortuitous funding opportunity galvanized Scott White, who was eager to apply for the grant; that is, until he perused the terms and requirements governing the process. “I was overwhelmed by what appeared to be an insurmountable mountain of paperwork. (By way of comparison, I’m talking Mt. Everest, not the Appalachians),” White said. Recognizing his own limitations, Scott contacted the Orangeburg Area SBDC.
“During the intake interview,” said Jim “it was obvious that Scott was weighing the merits of receiving the loan versus the hassle of preparing the application.”
Continuing the mountain metaphor, Jim essentially served as Scott’s Sherpa. “My goal was to help Scott scale the paperwork mountain, compile the required documentation and prepare an application that was both compelling and compliant,” Johnson said.
When the USDA awarded Walker Emulsions a $17,579 REAP grant, both Jim and Scott were elated. “Completing the application was an arduous process,” White said. “However, by taking one step at a time we finally reached our summit.”
By upgrading the lighting systems at its Orangeburg facility, Walker Emulsions anticipates saving $20,165 annually while simultaneously embracing a key tenet of the company’s EARTH 1st Program: to give back to the environment more than it takes from it.