Success Story: Georgia. By Emilie Gille –

ATC Auto CenterATC Auto Center in Augusta has been in business since 1972, with a second location in Grovetown added later. Brothers Brian and Chris Weeks own and operate the auto repair business they took over from their father nearly 20 years ago.

They’ve built a good clientele over the years and have 21 employees.

It all was threatened by COVID-19. Business slowed as Georgia residents sheltered in place, and businesses closed. The brothers realized that their savings would only last so long, and they didn’t want to lay off employees. But they knew that’s where they were headed.

“We worked too hard for too long to get the team that we have, and we didn’t want to have anything happen to them,” said Brian Weeks.

As longtime clients of the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center, the Weeks were among the local businesses that UGA public service faculty member Eric Frickey reached out to when the federal government approved the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which included money for small businesses.

Frickey, a small-business expert in the SBDC’s Augusta regional office, helped the brothers understand their options and how to pursue funding through the act’s Paycheck Protection Program. With guidance from the SBDC's Augusta regional office and the local Queensborough Bank, the auto shop was able to get a $257,739 Paycheck Protection loan. Click To Tweet

The PPP funding will allow them to continue to pay their employees and keep the business operating in the coming months.

“Now, we won’t operate out of fear,” Brian Weeks said. “When people operate out of fear, businesses start to decline because customers can read that. So, internally it helps us because everybody will be emotionally healthy and be able to keep their families emotionally healthy.

“Every business owner should have a good relationship with their local SBDC.”

The Weeks brothers began working with the UGA SBDC when they decided to open a second location more than six years ago. With SBDC assistance, they were able to solidify their projections, develop a concrete business plan, and successfully apply for — and receive — a loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

They stayed connected with the SBDC over the years and have been invited to speak to other small businesses during classes at the Augusta office.

“We have this mindset in our office to keep in touch with our small business owners, just to check in on them,” Frickey said. “That’s what happened with Brian. I called him up and that led to suggesting they look into the Paycheck Protection Plan. They took it from there and were successful.”

To learn more about the University of Georgia SBDC, visit www.georgiasbdc.org.  To find your nearest SBDC, click here.