George East answered his cell phone quickly. After operating a local business for 25 years with his wife Judy, the phone rings now more often than ever.
New customers and the expansion of their company have made 2021 the busiest year yet for East Systems Inc. First launched in their garage, East Systems designs, manufactures, installs and maintains specialized electric control equipment for the printing, mining, packaging and converting industries and more.
“It’s like taking on another job,” George said with a laugh about their business expansion. “We’re about halfway through. The slab is done and the construction is going great.”
The business expansion, at a cost of approximately $890,000, marks the next step in a successful journey for the husband and wife team. Judy, an accountant, deals with the finances while George, an electrical engineer, handles production.
Although the expansion is still underway, it has begun paying dividends by inspiring the confidence of new customers. An Alabama company has already awarded one new contract to East Systems, with more likely to follow.
Despite today’s booming business, success did not always seem so likely.
“It hasn’t always been a glorious ride,” Judy explained to The Dispatch in February. “We’ve had to use up a lot of our savings just to keep our doors open and our employees paid over the years.”
Eventually, another challenge loomed even larger than the ebb and flow of daily business. The company had lost great opportunities because their workforce and facilities were too small to handle many customers and contracts. They knew they needed to expand, but like most small business owners, they could not just write a check for the construction and new equipment.
That was when they called Joe Max Higgins, CEO of the Golden Triangle Development LINK.
“They really helped us get started,” George East said of Higgins and the LINK team.
Higgins connected George and Judy with the Mississippi Development Authority, which ultimately awarded the Easts a grant of $89,800, 10 percent of the expansion cost.
“We really appreciate everything they did to help make this happen,” George added.
Armed with needed seed money, the Easts launched the construction. They said they have been pleased with the work so far.
“We’re keeping the money in town because we’re using local contractors,” George said. “We’ve hired local people.”
Hiring local people is especially important to the Easts, who have made Columbus their home over the past quarter century after both growing up in Houston, Mississippi.
“We’re proud to live here,” George said. “We have made this our home.”
When asked what advice he had for anyone wanting to start their own business, he said the answer was easy.
“Always be planning for the long-term future,” he said. “Always plan for what might happen next. Find your own pace and move at the right speed. And you should stay here in our community. There’s a lot of opportunity here.