Jim Wilkin Trucking shows that you can accomplish business success in Lincoln County, if you have the “want-to”.
Can I make it in Lincoln County?
It is a question that many have asked. They include those who grew up here and would love to raise their own children in the same wonderful environment. They include those who already live here and hope that their paycheck will be enough.
If you are wondering if you can make it in Lincoln County, you need not look any further than Jim Wilkin.
In 1972, he started a trucking company in Lincoln County with one truck. A man unafraid of long work weeks, he quickly expanded his business. In 1976, he purchased a local redi-mix company in Caliente. Later, he designed his own concrete batch plant and worked hard to establish a quality business over the following decades.
Today, Jim Wilkin Trucking is the largest private employer in Lincoln County and brings $1.7 million into the county annually. It employs 15 to 18 people per year. Around 50 percent of the company’s gross income goes back into the county through wages, subcontractors, and taxes.
So yes, it is possible to make it here, but it doesn’t happen by accident. There is a specific work ethic and mindset that Wilkin and his company epitomize that made it happen, according to Uvada Wilkin, Jim’s wife and business manager. Mrs. Wilkin recently discussed what it takes to make it in Lincoln County and things that should happen in our communities to make it easier for businesses to do well.
Find a way to Compete
In a day when it is easier than ever to find the lowest price, it is increasingly difficult to charge a higher price just because you are closer.
“The reason we feel we have survived is that we’ve always kept our prices competitive with Cedar and St. George,” Mrs. Wilkin said. “We’ve always been lower than the other rural counties, because we feel that we owe that to the people to keep prices as low as we can.”
In order to pull it off, the company puts in extra work to find the lowest prices on materials. “We work hard at getting the lowest price for our powder, and of course we produce our own sand and gravel and that’s a benefit to the customer.”
Get ‘Somewhere Else’ to Spend Money Here
Lincoln County residents spend an enormous amount of their resources in other communities. Jim Wilkin Trucking bucks that trend by getting other communities to spend money on the local business. Outside income is a must for any business to do well here. The population is just too small to depend solely on Lincoln County residents.
“The concrete, sand, and gravel that we sell here would not even make a good living for one family,” Mrs. Wilkin said. “We have to subsidize that by going out of the county.”
“About 20 percent of our gross income comes from Lincoln County.”
Your Employees are your Greatest Asset
Jim Wilkin Trucking takes great satisfaction from being able to provide quality employment for local residents. The company has competitive wages with retirement and insurance benefits.
“We cherish our employees,” Mrs. Wilkin said. “We know that no business can survive or be successful if you don’t have good employees, and the only we you get good employees is to treat them well, respect them, and treat them as your equal.”
She added with the labor intensive work involved it can be difficult to find employees that are up to the challenge. “A lot of kids nowadays are not used to that kind of work.” She encourages the generation coming up to develop a strong work ethic, “no matter what it is you want to get in to.”
To keep long-term employees, the company has made sure to stay competitive with what government jobs offer. It’s harder to do, but still doable.
“If you’re going to stay in business; if you’re going to keep good employees, you have to match what the local, state, and federal governments give.”
Surround Yourself With Good People
Along with good employees, the Wilkins realized early on that they needed trustworthy people to turn to for help with things like accounting, insurance, legal issues, banking, and all the other details that come with business ownership. They are grateful that they have found those professionals that advise and assist them.
“Surround yourself with the best people that you can, people that you’re comfortable with, and ask lots and lots of questions of your advisors. And don’t think you’re smarter than they are,” Mrs. Wilkin said.
Realize How Much Strong Businesses Benefit Our Communities
Private sector organizations spend money on local projects and jobs, plus they pay taxes to support what the public sector does. Mrs. Wilkin wants Lincoln County to realize that strong businesses are good for everybody. They create jobs for our residents, plus provide more funding for our schools, parks, and the other important things the public sector provides.
Residents need to realize how much new business benefit the community, she said. “The more money someone else makes, the more that comes in to our county and the better we all are.”
“We have a lot of talent here, and we can do it just as well as anybody outside these county lines – even better in some cases.”
“For [business owners] to get rich is only a compliment to each one of us as citizens and a county as a whole, and hopefully they will get very, very rich.”
Mrs. Wilkin said government needs to recognize the importance of and work for more business-friendly policies. This includes local government.
“They maintain they are pro-business, but no, anything they can get done with a tax dollar, they will take that avenue way before they will take getting it done with private enterprise.”
She said that trend can change through the younger generation coming back to build and improve business and push government in a more pro-business direction. She expressed appreciation for those who have made improvements to the county through their businesses such as Adam Katschke and Steve McCrosky and encourages other to put more back into the county than they get out of it.
“We have to have our county lawmakers have the ‘want-to’ to make it easy for business to come in here, not always have the attitude that ‘we can’t do that’. You have to have the attitude like Jim Wilkin, ‘Oh, you can do that.’”
Looking to the Future
Jim Wilkin Trucking is at its pinnacle. The Wilins believe there will always be a demand for sand and gravel. They do not intend to expand too much further. However, they also believe in not standing still. You are either moving backward or forward. So they stay open to new ideas and possibilities, always looking forward.
“Jim’s philosophy is, if I want to do it, I can do it, and he’s kept that philosophy all of his life.”
As far as Lincoln County, Mrs. Wilkin hopes it will look forward as well for the sake of its future. She encourages locals to spend money in the county whenever they can, rather than traveling to other larger towns. “We all get hurt when our grocery store doesn’t sell very many groceries.”
She sees possibilities in tourism, particularly visitors to our parks and vast lands.
“I think there’s a lot of possibilities for business here. I think you have to have the imagination and want to go hungry, so to speak, for five years or more, and you just have to have a lot of courage and ‘want-to.’”