Grant will help trucking company Haystation continue expansion

Apr. 15, 2013 @ 06:32 PM

The road leading to the growth of John Pritchard's trucking company in recent years was not smooth.

Nor were the financial dealings involved in going from a single tractor-trailer and driver about seven years ago to a 20-truck fleet with 26 drivers.

“We’ve had to borrow money on everything we’ve got,” said Pritchard, who in recent years has “robbed Peter to pay Paul” by refinancing his Burke County home and cutting personal expenses to meet the growing demand of his company, Haystation LLC in Sawmills, which delivers refrigerated food to grocery stores across the Southeast. “It’s been a tough road.”

But the mounting financial pressure, perpetuated by interest on loans for tractor-trailers and other shipping equipment, subsided a couple weeks ago. That was when Pritchard, faced with a “crazy ordeal” of deciding whether to take out another loan for extra equipment, received a letter from Raleigh saying his company has secured a $250,000 grant for which he had nearly abandoned hope.

Last summer, a community development specialist with the Western Piedmont Council of Governments led Sawmills officials to apply for a Community Development Block Grant on Pritchard's behalf. The federal grant is distributed by the state Department of Commerce. (Another local company, Keller Woodcarving in Gamewell, also received one of the grants.)

As a condition of both grants, Pritchard pledged to hire a total of 10 workers in the next one to two years.

He also plans to get more tractor-trailers -- which cost $130,000 to $145,000 each, he noted.

“Trucks," he reiterated, “is what we’re looking at.”