As it became more and more evident Seaside Diesel Repair needed to expand, owner and mechanic Travis Koski figured befriending a banker or two couldn’t hurt his chances of building up the business.
Little did Koski know his new financial friends would potentially need assistance from him time to time.
Koski met First National Bank Alaska Assistant Vice President Jaime Kissner soon after Kissner joined the bank as a Loan Officer in 2010. As Kissner helped Koski secure loans needed to buy commercial property and refurbish the workspace in Juneau, the duo found they shared a lot in common.
“We both get out on our snowmachines a lot, but I’m not all that mechanical. I can hop on the sled and get it started,” Kissner said.
“If it breaks down, I sure hope Travis is there with me.”
At work or out in the Southeast Alaska wilderness, Koski and Kissner seem to work well together. With the financial backing of First National, Koski and Seaside Diesel Repair have flourished – going from working by himself in a rented space to a operating a popular commercial fishing vessel and heavy machinery repair shop with four other employees, including Koski’s wife Heidi.
“I knew we really wanted to make a big jump in terms of what we were doing,” Koski said. “We were looking for that commercial property and I went around to quite a few banks. Once I sat down with Jaime and (Vice President) Luke (Fanning), they described some of the Small Business Administration (SBA) options and benefits, like the possibility of lower down payments.
“They really took all the headaches out of the process.”
Koski, 32, grew up part of a Montana logging family. He worked on farms, remembers each one of the shop classes he took and has attended technical school. He’s always worked with his hands.
After arriving in Juneau in 2000, Koski found himself on out-of-town jobs making sure industrial machines and commercial fishing vessels could be counted on for the workers who needed them. Once back in Juneau, he landed more and more jobs fixing commercial fishing boats. News of Koski’s quality work spread around the region by word of mouth.
“There were a lot of boats and a lack of people to do the work,” Koski said. “For a while, it was just me and one other guy.”
As time moved on, Koski kept busy and started Seaside in rented space. He worked on boat engine and transmission jobs during each fishing season and spent offseasons on long-term boat maintenance jobs and heavy machinery.
“While getting to know Travis and Seaside, we had a sense of the growth potential,” Kissner said. “Looking at where he was headed and what he needed to get there, it all screamed SBA 504 loan. The SBA program works for land acquisition and construction and allows for smaller down payments and fixed rates for 20 years.
“It was good fit for Travis.”
Seaside’s new facility was completed in March 2013. It includes room for engine overhauls for boats and larger spaces for trucks and extended-boom forklifts.
“A lot of room,” Koski said. “It’s really nice.”
Koski and his Seaside crew generally work Monday through Saturday, eight to 10 hours a day. Kissner said the business’ revenue stream surpassed seven figures for the first time earlier in 2013.
“We’ve so busy, which is good, but it hasn’t really allowed me to reach the part where you can enjoy it all,” Koski said. “Someday, we’ll hopefully expand some more and add on. I know First National will be there when I need it.”
In addition to the volume of commercial fishing vessels serviced by Seaside, Koski recently secured a servicing contract with Alaska Electric & Power, Juneau’s electric utility.
To think, Koski’s business started small – in cramped, rented spaces. He worked alone. The expansion – a larger, refurbished facility, more employees and much more work – came about not long after Koski struck up a relationship with First National.
“What’s really stuck out to me is how down to earth and personable Jaime, Luke and everyone at the bank have been,” Koski said.
“First National makes it all go as painlessly as possible.”
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