Today we’d like to introduce you to Ryan Blythe.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I worked for a traditional vocational school that was a “House of Cards”. Their business model was entirely dependent on government grants and just before Thanksgiving in 2011 the owner ran out of funds and the business closed.
From that experience, I knew there was tremendous potential for a welding school given the skills gap and how our graduates have found jobs relatively easy even during the height of the great recession. What I sought to do is a term you hear a lot in today’s economy- disruption. Too many middle-class families in suburban America were sending their kids to college because they did not have enough alternatives. Instead of providing them with some, our industry was still afraid to compete for high school students who were strong enough academically to attend a university.
So with two of my former colleagues on board we put together a business plan, added my wife to the mix as she had a strong corporate background and went out to the Northwestern Atlanta suburbs to test our theory. Six years later we own a 30,000 square foot historic mill in Downtown Acworth, sixty three months of sold out classes and have put 500 graduates to work in 17 states.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
One of our greatest challenges has been real estate. When we were a startup and needed a lease nobody wanted us. Initially, I thought it was a result of the recession, a lot of building owners were skeptical of a new business but we were well capitalized. Looking back at it the real issue was what we do- the so-called dirty jobs.
Five years later when we had gone from startup to emerging to a mature company municipalities across the region were interested in us but the supply of available properties remained a major hurdle. With a welding school, you need a lot of power, a lot of parking and as we had been on top of each other at our first building a lot of space. In this e-commerce era, 40,000 sq foot buildings are made with 10 parking spaces.
Fortunately, the great city of Acworth worked with us on public parking access (200 spaces) a short walk from the building we eventually purchased. Renovating a building from the 1920’s was also very challenging (and expensive) but it transformed a section of the historic district here and our staff/students have one of the most unique settings in the nation for a welding school. They are steps away from award-winning restaurants, stores, parks and a lake.
Georgia Trade School – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Georgia Trade School is the nation’s premier independent welding school. We have never received a dollar in taxpayer money, similar to the widely lauded Hillsdale College. Fortune 500 companies tell us this is the favorite school to recruit from and the community/industry has responded. GTS has been nominated for or won nine major business awards, appeared in dozens of media forms including the Wall Street Journal and the homepage of Yahoo!
Our Senior Instructor was named National Teacher of the Year in 2016 by the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association Our graduate pay is on par with UCLA, one of the top public universities in the United States. But in the end, I am most proud of the 500 graduates whose lives have been changed because we care.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I am now writing business/economic development columns for the Marietta Daily Journal which is one of the most widely distributed and influential newspapers in Georgia. That opportunity would never have occurred without the success of GTS.
Also, I am very proud that our company has won back to back Cobb Chamber Top 25 Business of the Year Awards. That’s a big deal in a county with nearly one million people and over 50,000 businesses.
- Tuition for our Plate and Pipe Welding program is 8,500
- Address: 4231 Southside Drive Acworth, GA 30101
- Website: www.georgiatradeschool.com
- Phone: 7705909353
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/georgiatradeschool
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/georgiatradeschool
Candy Ciulla Photography