How tax reform helped this veteran’s patriotic clothing company grow

August 16, 2018

min read

Tyler Merritt flew Apache helicopters in Iraq and Afghanistan as a U.S. Army captain. Today, he runs Nine Line Apparel, a clothing company based in Savannah, Georgia, that he co-founded in 2012. Crediting his business’ recent growth to tax reform, the West Point graduate has been able to hire dozens of new employees.


The brand has proved especially popular with firefighters, veterans, and anyone else who likes to wear the red, white, and blue. Merritt points to his time as a fighter pilot as preparation for running an expanding business.


“I’d say attention to detail or a lack thereof will get you killed. And I’d say that attention to detail on the numbers focus has been incredibly valuable,” he said.


That’s especially true for a company that he says has grown in no small part thanks to the tax cuts passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump.


"It’s allowed us to grow much faster by being able to purchase the things that I need to purchase now, depreciate them completely, and hire people that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to hire,” Merritt said.


The company started off by selling T-shirts before expanding into hats and other outerwear. Today, the company has roughly 140,000 SKUs. The veteran-founded company has not forgotten its roots, with a number of veteran hiring initiatives, from those just transitioning from service to those who are struggling to find work.


“We’ve all been there. Just one paycheck away from being homeless. And that’s one of our biggest initiatives right now is to try to get veteran homelessness under control,” Merritt said. “We have over 200 homeless veterans in Savannah, Georgia. We’ve been hiring them and putting them to work, and they prove every single day that you give them the opportunity and they will shine.”


Now at 160 employees, Merritt says his company will continue to grow in large part thanks to the tax relief. The current tax reform has allowed Merritt to keep more cash in his company to hire people faster, he says.


“My biggest crutch is not that I need people. I do—I’m about 30 people short right now. I would like to be at 200 employees before the end of the year,” he said. “Finding quality employees and getting them in a pipeline is difficult, especially if you’re cash-strapped. So, usually it boils down to how much do you have in reserve to be able to hire that next person. But we look at them not as expenses; it’s an investment in human capital.”


This story originally appeared as a Freedom to Flourish segment, sponsored by Koch Industries, on Hill.TV’s Rising with Krystal & Buck.