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Small Biz Backer: Dean Baldwin During COVID-19

May 19, 2023

Published July 9, 2020 – San Antonio Business Journal

“No one could have convinced me back in January that within 45 days our company would lose 80% of it’s 2020 orders for aircraft painting and that the projections for the next 1-2 years would change from predictable to questionable.”, reflects Barbara Baldwin-McNulty CEO and Owner of Dean Baldwin Painting LP.

Dean Baldwin Painting LP is a small, minority, woman owned business that paints upwards of 250 large aircraft each year for airline and military customers. The San Antonio based company has been in business for over 55 years and employs about 300 men and women, pre-COVID-19.

In addition to small operations located in San Antonio, TX and Goodyear, AZ, the company has two large five hangar bay facilities in Roswell, New Mexico and Peru, Indiana where most of its aircraft painting takes place. In December 2019, unbeknown the looming pandemic, the company announced its next expansion adding its third aircraft painting facility to be built in Macon, Georgia adding four more bays to their portfolio with a planned completion of April 2021.

The facilities are Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified to work on passenger and cargo aircraft. Over the years, the company has painted nearly every livery flying in North America and has a customer list that includes American Airlines, UPS, Delta Air Lines, Spirit Airlines, SkyWest Airlines, Air Canada, Military C130s and many others.

On March 11th, the WHO declared COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. Soon after, Airline passenger traffic dropped by an estimated 95%. The International Air Transport Association estimated that the airline industry could lose between US$63 to $113 billion of revenues due to the reduced number of passengers. The airlines, to preserve cash, began draconian cost saving measures that included grounding hundreds of aircraft, cutting flights and implementing voluntary and mandatory furloughs for thousands of its employees. By the end of March Dean Baldwin Painting’s sales backlog for 2020 had nearly evaporated and its hangars that were full of customer aircraft suddenly became empty.

Faced with a pandemic and a significant loss of business Barbara Baldwin-McNulty began to focus on keeping the company open and workers employed and safe. The company mandated new processes for social distancing in break and meeting rooms and other shared spaces. Extensive training on hygiene/contagiousness was given to remaining staff. More janitorial staff was added for more frequency of cleaning and disinfecting. Employees that could work remotely began working from home. The company also began a communication campaign contacting all its current and prospective customers to remind them Dean Baldwin Painting was still open, practicing new safety protocols for the virus and to offer them any assistance possible.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan was very beneficial in helping Dean Baldwin Painting LP bring many furloughed employees back to work and keeping operations open. As a long-time customer of Broadway Bank, Barbara Baldwin-McNulty quickly reached out to them for help and guidance. The PPP Loan gave the company some breathing room, allowing two thirds of the workforce to stay employed.

“Thankfully, we have established a loyal and diversified client base over our 55 years in operation. Some cargo and regional carriers are still with us even during this crisis; nonetheless, our business depends on volume just to meet our expenses; so, we continue to be severely impacted. There have been weeks when there were no aircraft in the hangars. During those periods employees were diverted to inhouse projects like painting our lift equipment, cleaning hangars, training and other non-billable work while providing them the opportunity to earn a 40 hour pay week.” Said Barbara.

“My focus is getting through this pandemic by reducing costs where possible, preserving the work force and generally keeping the operations going forward until this pandemic stops impacting the world and our economy.”

“We have to be optimistic and know that we will find a Vaccine to contain this pandemic. I, personally, feel for the smaller businesses, many of which likely will not survive this. We were there at one point many years ago, we would not have made it back then.”

Dean Baldwin Painting relies strictly on aviation; so based on the forecast that airline traffic will not return to Pre-COVID levels until 2023, it’s likely that demand for aircraft painting will be impacted for some time. “DBP has experienced many downturns over the years, recessions of 1975; 1980-82; the attack of 9-11 and the Great Recession of 2008 to name a few” says Barbara Baldwin-McNulty, “this one is undoubtedly different; but, we will get past this one too, together.” Published July 9, 2020 San Antonio Business Journal.