Local family keeps doors open for largest private employer in Hancock County
When the Mayor of Hancock County, Tennessee learned the largest private employer – Kiefer Manufacturing – was planning on shuttering their local factory, he turned to David Greene Jr. and his family to see if they could keep the business up and running.
With family connections dating back to Daniel Boone, the Greene family has been a fixture in the community for a very long time. With several businesses including a family farm and Greene’s Trailer and Equipment, there was no shortage of work while David was growing up.
David started working in his father’s livestock dealership when he was in the third grade, walking there after school to sweep and scrape the floors. The business had worked with Kiefer horse trailers for more than 20 years – selling and delivering the trailers, sourcing parts, and even suggesting improvements. In fact, David was one of the top Kiefer salesmen in the country.
“I’m about a 16-hour a day kinda guy,” says David Greene Jr. “At my house, you work – just how we were raised. Watching dad, we learned quickly how much work it takes to be a successful business owner.”
After changing hands several times, the Kiefer plant in Sneedville was ultimately taken over by a major corporation in Iowa. But as sales and profits dropped, the owners began looking for a change. That’s when the County Mayor connected them with the Greene family. When David turned down their initial offer to manage the facility, they turned around and suggested his family buy the business.
“It took us two years of looking at numbers, deciding what overhead we could cut and what we couldn’t if we bought the factory,” says David. “At the time, I knew we needed working capital upfront – told dad we won’t make it six months without a loan.” With seller financing in place, their accountant and the seller’s business analyst agreed that a loan was crucial to the new owners weathering the first six months.
The final step in securing their USDA and SBA-guaranteed loan was some environmental testing of the land used as collateral. At one time David’s dad operated a service station on the property, and tests revealed trace amounts of gasoline. “That shut the whole deal down,” says David. “Our loan fell through all because there’s gasoline at an old service company.”
“At that point, we were suffering,” says David. “We couldn’t get material in here and things looked pretty bad until Pathway stepped in.”
A contact at the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TDEC) put the Greene family in touch with Pathway Lending, and within a month they had their working capital and were back to building trailers.
“As the business grows, accounts receivable grow, finished goods grow, work in process grows, and you face hiccups,” says David. “When Pathway stepped in, it couldn’t have been better timing. It’s been a blessing and got us back to rolling again…and that’s where we are today.”
Hancock County is among the poorest counties in the nation, so keeping this business up and running was essential to the long-term health of the community. Not only is Kiefer the largest private employer in the county, they also offer the highest start pay, best average pay, and benefits. “A lot of our employees have been here for 10 or 15 years,” says David. “And we’re glad to be able to take care of them.”
Kiefer is constantly looking for ways to make every trailer sturdier. “Every couple weeks we come up with a new improvement,” says David. “And everyone who comes on-board, no matter what department, has to work in the factory so they learn these trailers inside and out.”
David’s goal for Kiefer is to grow, and it’s been doing so by leaps and bounds already. Since the Greene family took over Kiefer less than two years ago, trailer production has gone from 1.7 to 4.9 units a week. David oversees 40 employees and is focused on making the best product in an industry he loves.
You can learn more about the Greene family and Kiefer Manufacturing at www.kiefermfg.com.
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