Developed during the 1980’s and 90’s, the U.S. Air Force’s C-17 Globemaster III aircraft is used to transport and airdrop military personnel and cargo. The C-17’s innovative design allows it to carry up to 160,000 pounds, refuel while in flight, and in 1998 it was used in the longest airdrop mission in history, flying 19 hours from the U.S. to Central Asia.
Air Force veteran Andrew Kossowski helped bring this crucial military tool to life. As the initial models were being constructed, he performed developmental testing, ensuring vendors who provided parts for the aircraft were meeting the correct specifications. During his service, he also worked on the E-8C Joint STARS aircraft, learning about the corrosion of metal and how to repair corroded parts.
Though he has transitioned to civilian life, he continues to use this background and skillset to strengthen the U.S. Armed Forces through his small business, Veterans Metal.
A common bond of service
Located in Clearwater, FL, Veterans Metal is a metal finishing manufacturing business providing corrosion-control on stainless steel parts. It was first launched nearly 30 years ago under a different name by a Marine veteran.
In 2020, after serving as chief information officer for one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies, Andrew decided to purchase the company. He needed financing to do so, and that’s when he turned to CRF and received an SBA 7(a) loan used for business acquisition, working capital, and to purchase equipment.
“The experience was very good,” Kossowski said of working with CRF. “They answered questions very quickly, and if I had any doubts, they would answer them.”
Kossowski runs the business with his wife, a retired banker, and the two immediately set out to create a positive environment for their employees.
“From a company culture perspective, we really changed the whole attitude of the shop,” Kossowski explained.
“People used to come to work and didn’t really know why they were doing what they were doing, and we’ve changed that company culture where we’re explaining the importance of what they’re doing, and why doing it a certain way means a good quality output.”
Kossowski knows firsthand how important the quality of his team’s output is, as 75% of their business comes from the military. Several team members also have a close connection to the mission at hand, with an Army veteran and a Navy veteran on staff.
And just as the Airforce helped lay the foundation for his career, Kossowski is now helping to put young people on the path to success. Veterans Metal offers a two-year internship program, and through a grant from the State of Florida, they provide reimbursement for plating classes and other trainings for interns.
A second deployment of capital
In just two years, Kossowski doubled the business’s revenue and found that he needed additional capital for further expansion. In 2023, Veterans Metal will move from its current 5,000 square foot location to a brand-new 15,000 square foot facility. To help finance new equipment and other growth-related costs, Kossowski once again turned to CRF.
“The reason I went back to CRF a second time was because of my experience with the first loan,” Kossowski said. “The first one went really well.”
Kossowski will use his second SBA 7(a) loan from CRF to transform the manufacturing operation into a mechanically assisted assembly structure. Currently, his shop is 100% manual and quite labor intensive. Kossowski feels the new machinery will improve the quality of the work experience for his employees as well as efficiency.
He will also use the loan to add an additional service to the business, implement a new quoting system for clients, and obtain several new certifications.
“Aim High… Fly-Fight-Win” is the official motto for the U.S. Airforce, and it is seemingly the mindset with which Kossowski approaches his business. While he has had many victories in a short time at Veterans Metal, Kossowski is locked in on continuing to reach new heights, and he is grateful to have CRF flying by his side.
“There’s still a lot of runway; a lot of room to grow,” Kossowski said.
“My experience with CRF has been outstanding and I appreciate the support, especially when it came to questions in areas that I really didn’t know much about. It’s worked out really well.”