Leader of Small Business Administration drops by in state

Couple cites aid for their success

Gina and Wade Radke built their Sherwood business -- Galley Support Innovations -- with assistance from the Small Business Administration and by training their own employees.

"One of the things about being young and scrappy in business is that we've used almost every program you have," Gina Radke told Linda McMahon, head of the U.S. Small Business Administration, on Thursday. "Anytime there was free money, I looked for it. Anytime there was free advice, free education, free knowledge, we ran to it and looked for it."

McMahon visited Galley Support Innovations as part of her nationwide "Ignite Tour." The trip to Arkansas represented the 43rd state McMahon has visited.

"Had it not been for the SBA and even the state of Arkansas, we would not be where we are today," said Gina Radke, chief executive officer of the company.

McMahon called the SBA the best kept secret in the country.

"If you think about SBA, you think about loan guarantees," McMahon said. "But you really don't think about all the other aspects that SBA offers."

She mentioned the SBA's women's business centers, its outreach for veterans and business counseling for small-business owners.

"When I was early on in business, I didn't know anything about SBA," McMahon said. "I wish I had. That would have made it a little bit easier."

Wade Radke, Gina's husband, is chief operations officer of Galley Support, a family owned and operated company in business now for more than 60 years. Galley Support designs and manufactures locks, latches, retainers and interior hardware for the industrial, aviation, rail, marine and auto businesses.

The company was founded in 1958 in Southern California by Wade's grandfather. After Wade retired from the military, he had a chance to purchase the company's two products.

The Radkes moved Galley Support to Arkansas in 2005, Wade said. The company had only $10,000 in sales that first year and almost went out of business in 2008-2009 when the recession hit.

Now the company does more than $2 million in sales a year.

Galley Support's products are 100 percent Arkansas-made, Gina said.

In Arkansas, 99 percent of more than 247,000 businesses are considered small and employ more than 47 percent of the state's workforce, the SBA says.

A company is considered a small business if it has between two and 500 employees, McMahon said.

Galley Support includes a ministry for people who come from treatment programs and can be hired, trained and given a new opportunity for a productive lifestyle. That includes people who have spent time in prison.

"We are a second-chance opportunity company," Wade said. "We hire a lot of ex-felons. And we hire a lot of nonskilled employees and give them a skill set and training. So we have traditional employees and nontraditional employees. Nontraditional means they come from a lot of rehab programs."

Wade grew up with a nontraditional lifestyle. He was 30 years old when he first met his father.

"I grew up on the government system in Southern California, including government housing," Wade said. "I'm not ashamed to say that."

Wade, whose father is an American Indian, was raised on an Indian reservation.

When the Radkes began providing jobs to felons, they learned that many of them were returning to the lifestyles that led them to prison.

"So that led to reincarceration," Wade said. "So we purchased some housing units in Sherwood and were able to house them as well. We feel like it's important to look at the whole person -- mentally, physically and spiritually."

Galley Support has about 40 employees, with a goal of hiring about 20 more in two years, Gina said. The average salary is about $17 a hour, which includes unskilled laborers and some engineering employees.

Among several honors, Galley Support won the Governor's Quality Award in 2016, and Gina and Wade Radke were named SBA Small Business Persons of the Year for Arkansas in 2016.

Business on 09/07/2018