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Paying it forward

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By Doug Ponder

A well-known LaRue County business got its start from helping others in the community.

Skunkworks is a manufacturing and repair shop that is located on 78 Old Sonora Road in Hodgenville. The business manufactures or repairs items for local factories including steel racks for brake components, casting tubs, surface treatment trays, conveyor tables and much more.

The business was opened in 1994 by Tommy and Nancy Lawson. Longtime employee Fran Hatcher has been with the business since it opened and employee R.W. Chaudoin has worked at Skunkworks for more than four years.

Hatcher said the business was created when Tommy Lawson started making hay wagons and other items for local farmers. As business picked up for Skunkworks, Hatcher said Tommy Lawson closed Lawson’s Cabinet Shop and focused all of his attention on Skunkworks.

“The biggest reason this business went over is everyone loved Tommy and he loved people. We have donated and made things for local churches and clubs. We made the frame of the stage for Lincoln Days and also made some storm grates for the City of Hodgenville,” Hatcher said. “Over the years, we have also made handrails for elderly people in the community. Before Tommy passed away in March 2014, he came up to me several times and would say ‘so and so’ needs handrails, so we would make them and he would donate it to them.”

As business picked up through the years, Hatcher said they were contacted by Akebono Brake Corporation in Elizabethtown and that now around 90 percent of their work comes from manufacturing and repairing items for them. She said they also manufacture and repair items for Hensley Manufacturing in Davison, Michigan as they powder coat goose neck and fifth wheel conversion hinges for them.

As far as the name of the company, Hatcher said Skunkworks was named by a former employee.

“A retired machinist from Caterpillar use to work with us and he told Tommy we should call it Skunkworks because our work stinks,” Hatcher said. “He was joking and our work doesn’t actually stink, but the name stuck and it has been called that ever since.”

Despite the constant high demand from the contracts with the factories, Hatcher said they will continue to do everything they can to work with local churches, clubs and senior citizens in the community because that is what they believe Tommy Lawson would want them to do with the business.

“He was all about helping someone. We are trying to keep his dream alive here and he was the driving force behind all of it,” Hatcher said. “Helping others is our way of paying it forward to the community.”

Skunkworks has no set operating hours or social media accounts. For more information about Skunkworks call 270-358-9816.