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Willie's T's Expansion Complete

What began 24 years ago with a hand press and from a creative loan, has become a Brownwood success story.

On May 2, Willie’s T’s moved into a new addition that has ballooned is footprint to 15,000 square feet. And that first press now sits in the company’s new showroom as a display piece and reminder how it all began.

“(It was) the very first machine I ever bought,” said Will Carrier, the company’s owner and founder. “We borrowed $1,500 and used a 1981 Honda Accord to get the loan.

“Our shirt printer now make 1800-1900 shirts per hour. With the old manual machine, I could put out 60 shirts an hour.”

Carrier said he began the business with two friends, who left the enterprise fairly quickly. He continued alone and later brought his wife on board. After a time in the Heartland Mall, the company needed more space and moved downtown.

The business just kept growing and the expansion has had that result, as well.

The expansion was made possible by a $100,000 infrastructure incentive package provided by the Brownwoood Economic Development Corporation in May 2013.

“Before the incentive with BEDC, we had 18 employees and now we have 26,” Carrier said. “And we will keep growing. I’ve got offices in this building where we can hire more sales people and we are going to keep doing that.”

And that kind of growth and job creation is what the BEDC had in mind, according to BEDC Executive Director Emily Crawford.

“We really want to not just work with our large employers who are international businesses,” she said. “We also want to provide support to our smaller, local businesses.”

And Crawford said that sometimes those smaller, local entrepreneurs need some encouragement to go to the next level.

“This is a great example of how the BEDC can work with a small, local business who is interested in expanding or toying with the idea of expansion, which for them could be a pretty big leap of faith and risk,” she said. “Our role is to help mitigate that risk, like we did with Willie’s T’s, so they are able to expand and create new jobs and expand in their production.”

And Carrier said that without that encouragement, his business may not have taken the plunge.

“Their offer to support us is what pushed me over and made me decide to go ahead and do it,” he said. “Them believing in us and that support helped me get over the kind of debt I was going to have to incur to do the project. It was a little easier to swallow with that support.”

Even then, Carrier gave the project a lot of consideration.

“I sought counsel from some really good friends that are money people and financial people as well before I pulled the trigger,” he said. “I didn’t want to do something that would jeopardize what we have.

“We had a pretty good deal before we built the building, now it is ideal.”

Carrier said the company’s new front door to the world couldn’t be better for Willie’s T’s and its customers.

“It is perfect,” he said. “It is built the way it needs to be. The sign shop is efficient, the showroom is better for our customers, there are 18 new parking spaces right up front giving them great access.

“It is more convenient for the general public and it is more convenient for our people that are in production.”

One area of production that received a jolt was the company’s sign business. Some of that work can’t be done just anywhere, Carrier said.

“We started doing full graphic installs on vehicles and boats and trailers and we didn’t have a place to do it,” he said. “You really need to be able to control the environment and the temperature and humidity for the installs, so we made do with what we had.”

Now, those installs and sign work are done in a dedicated area with lighting designed to approximate sunlight as closely as possible. Tuesday morning, Carrier and his crew were putting the markings on a new Brown County Sheriff’s Department Chevy Tahoe.

Carrier said that part of the business got a boost when a customer who was using Willie’s T’s for all its other services, said that if Carrier bought the equipment to do such work, the company would give them that business as well.

“I bought my sign equipment based on them,” he said. “And then it just exploded.

“They are still a customer today.”

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