Patriot Taxiway Industries Succeeds By Using Advice From SCORE Mentor

Kevin McDermott and Steven Smits originally intended to operate a small company producing aviation lighting systems. They soon grew their business when only 20 months into operations, the company was awarded a $7.7 million contract from the Air Force to supply lighting at 28 bases. Kevin, vice president of business development, says, he and Steve, the president of the company who is a service-disabled veteran, made a conscious decision to hire veterans for the workforce they’d need to meet the contract.

Attending meetings at their local SCORE chapter, Kevin and Steven met with Milwaukee mentor Joan Burke for small business help.

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Kevin McDermott and Steven Smits
My Location
290 Pleasant Hill Road
Lomira WI 53048
United States
Year Company Formed
My Successes

"There was an awful lot we didn't know" about starting a business, Kevin says. They must have learned a lot quickly, because Patriot Taxiway Industries received the 2010 SCORE Award for Outstanding Veteran-owned Business.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Attending meetings at their local SCORE chapter, Kevin and Steven met with Milwaukee counselor Joan Burke, and they were given checklists to understand what it takes to start a small business and to understand what they'd be up against.

How SCORE Helped

SCORE, Kevin says, gave them the framework to ask the right questions that would help them succeed regarding banks, liability insurance, marketing to the federal government. "In the military, we have a role, we have a task. The environment doesn't bother us; we fix airplanes," Kevin says. "It's different when we have to go out and hire people."


Kevin and Steven each have more than 20 years’ experience in the Air Force National Guard. They met in 1988 and have been deployed together all over the world including Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, Kosovo and Somalia. Nevertheless, Kevin calls starting a small business one of the most challenging, albeit rewarding, things he’s ever done.

With Kevin's background in electrical engineering and optical design, and Steven's in avionics manufacturing, the two had strong credentials for producing their aviation lighting systems, which makes lighting systems for aviation customers, from the overhead lights in an airplane cabin, to the runway and anti-collision lights utilized by airports.