When the company Dr. Patrick Hewitt worked for relocated outside of Virginia, Patrick didn’t want to leave the “for lovers” Commonwealth. He decided to stay behind and start his own business, and SPARC Research, formed in 2017, was the result.
Four years later, Patrick’s aerospace engineering firm is literally taking off in Fauquier County. “We’re excited to have a leader in advanced missile and rocket propulsion development like SPARC Research in our commonwealth,” Governor Ralph Northam commented in a May 2021 press release.
It’s obvious that Patrick knows the rocket propulsion business well. “I had the advantage of being involved in the industry for 34 years at my previous company,” he notes.
SPARC Research started operations in 2018 in a leased office in Warrenton. “We outgrew that office last year,” Patrick says. Currently, SPARC Research is operating in a temporary location, awaiting the construction of a 20,000-square-foot office and manufacturing facility in Fauquier County. “We’re designing 10,000 square feet as an open manufacturing space,” Patrick explains. “The other half of the building, with 50 offices, will be engineering.”
Securing a $5.5 million loan from the US Small Business Administration and The Fauquier Bank for the project was also a major undertaking. That’s when Patrick turned to the Lord Fairfax SBDC for assistance.
“I had drafted a business plan, but I’m an engineer,” he says. “The plan I put together was not something a banker would appreciate. Cort Maddox, business advisor at the Loudoun SBDC, helped put it together in a more accounting-type form,” Patrick adds.
Once the business loan was secured, the SBDC advised Patrick on advantageous ways to work with state and county agencies. “The county offers incentives for permits and fees,” Patrick continues. “The SBDC helped us maximize those incentives. Christine Kriz, Center Director of the Lord Fairfax SBDC, was the consistent thread in this.”
Patrick continues to appreciate the assistance received from the SBDC. “The SBDC helped us make sure we had everything in place when we approached the SBA for our loan,” he says. “The SBDC also provided advice on how to work with state and local governments to get our project off the ground and make it successful,” says Patrick.
Patrick is already looking to the future. “We have a strong intern program in place,” Patrick says. “What I see for the future is mentoring — bringing up the next generation in propulsion.” Also, in that future, Patrick sees the SBDC.
“I have a good grasp of my own industry but welcome help on the business side,” Patrick admits. “The SBDC has been extremely responsive — I would absolutely recommend them.”