As Pat Gililland explained it, the room was filled with representatives from about 70 manufacturers, mostly large firms, and all of them in attendance to accept the President’s “E” Awards for Exporting. In the midst of the pomp and circumstance were Pat and his wife Fran, who were representing SPF Depot, a comparatively small manufacturing and distributing firm from Bossier City, Louisiana. Feeling admittedly overwhelmed, the Gilillands were nevertheless happy to be recognized for a national commerce award. It wasn’t until U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker quietly informed the Gilillands about the importance of their presence at the awards reception.
“She read our story on our startup, and all the growing pains we went through,” said Gilliland. “She leaned over to my wife and I and said, ‘We read your story, and we just absolutely loved it; it’s the best story we read about any company, bar none.’”