Flying high: Guidance Aviation president/CEO receives Small Business Person of the Year award
PRESCOTT - John Stonecipher, who had a boyhood dream of becoming a police helicopter pilot, founded Guidance Aviation here in 1998 as the sole employee and with one helicopter.
Stonecipher sought advice from the Small Business Development Center at Yavapai College several years ago, SBDC Director Rick Marcum said.
The U.S. Small Business Administration recently named Guidance the recipient of the 2013 Arizona State Small Business Person of the Year Award, making the company eligible to compete at the national level.
"We saw the potential that they had right away, the scale that he was doing," Marcum remarked.
Among other things, Marcum said he helped to broker a meeting for Guidance and Yavapai College officials that led to Guidance offering a program for the college at its flight school. The program started in 2010, and offers an A.S. degree in aviation technology.
Over the years, Guidance expanded at the Prescott Airport with 55 employees and 17 aircraft, said Guy Roginson, marketing director. Guidance also grew its space from 120 to 12,000 square feet.
Guidance also became the first such facility in the United States that the Federal Aviation Administration approved for Part 141 high-altitude, helicopter flight training, according to the company's website. It trains a number of veterans, and 24 of its employees formerly served in the military, according to Roginson.
Guidance has maintained its relationship with the SBDC, and Marcum began plugging the company for recognition in the overall small-business community.
Guidance won the Success Award from SBDC for Yavapai County five years ago, and advanced to statewide Master Award two years ago, Marcum said. The SBA defines a small business as having fewer than 500 employees.
The Success Award is based on Guidance being the top-performing client that year, Marcum explained. The local SBDC staff sees 300 to 400 clients a year.
Marcum said he nominated Guidance for the Master Award "on the same basis": economic impact, the ability of the SBDC to help Guidance obtain financing and job creation.
The two awards prepared Guidance for what Marcum calls the "big kahuna": the Small Business Person of the Year Award.
"This is a culmination of a four-year plan with Guidance," Marcum said. "To get this award, we have to win the other two."
Marcum said the local SBDC staff nominated Guidance for the Business Person of the Year for the same reason he plugged the company for the previous awards.
"It's just greater exposure," he said.
A letter to Stonecipher from SBA Administrator Karen Mills dated April 5 states, "Your hard work, innovative ideas, and dedication to your community have helped you succeed. The SBA is pleased to recognize your achievements and your role in driving our nation's economic growth."
She also invited Stonecipher to attend the National Small Business Week celebration June 21 in Washington, D.C.
His next step is attending the state awards luncheon Thursday at the Phoenician hotel in Scottsdale.
Marcum said Guidance remains a client of SBDC, and he will share a table with the company at the luncheon.