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Four of the six team members stand outside one of the old Peerless Woolen Mills buildings in Rossville where Phillip Patrick, second from right, is PFE Group, Inc., Chief Executive Officer. Chandler Patrick, second from left, is COO. Rochelle Beene, left, and Beth Bullion.

Phillip Patrick is ready for his next chapter.

He's ready to do right by the community that helped raise him, by his family that looks up to him and by other communities around the country where he sees opportunity.

Years ago, the Chattanooga native got into some trouble and ended up serving seven years in jail for selling drugs. He doesn't hide from his past. He uses it to shape his future.

"I feel like everyone should have an opportunity to grow," he said. "When I was in the street, you could say that I was taking from people's lives. Now I'm giving back."

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Flotation device company

While he was in jail, Patrick focused on broadening his horizons and making sure he was prepared for life on the outside. He read books for the first time, studied successful business leaders and made a plan for when he got out.

"One thing people always say is change your circle," he said. "Start with the things that hold you down. Then if you create a solution to a problem, then you'll make it."

One night, he thought of an idea that he believes could be revolutionary.

The idea is an innovative flotation device that would be used by people who live in cities that are vulnerable to flooding.

The flotation devices would mainly be used for storage units and vehicles during flooding events.

With the idea, Patrick started his own company about four years ago when he came back home. PFE Group, short for Protecting Families Everywhere, is set out to "revolutionize the protection of vehicles, personal belongings and people from floods and other disasters," according to its mission statement.

Another critical part of the mission is for Phillip to be on the journey with his son and the rest of his family.

Chandler Patrick, Phillip's son, is the chief operating officer of the company.

The father-son duo have enjoyed spending a lot of time together, both as creative businessmen and family members.

Chandler Patrick admitted that this was not an overnight process.

"It's been a lot of trial and error. A lot of knocking on doors, being turned away. This isn't an overnight thing," he said. "There's been a whole lot of struggling to get to this point. Just seeing the dream come to realization is a really big thing for me."

To get PFE off the ground, Phillip Patrick and his team are going to depend on the local workforce in Chattanooga and North Georgia. The company hopes to hire as many local workers as it can as it moves into Rossville's Peerless Woolen Mills in the new year.

The mills were bought by a developer in 2017 and is envisioned to be an epicenter of new business. Already, plans are in the works to turn the mill into a mixed-use facility with office space, restaurants and artist studios.

PFE Group will be the next company to move into the space.

Their current flotation device can hold up to 8,360 pounds, but specially ordered devices can hold more weight.

The original plan was for the company to debut the prototype of the flotation device in Houston, a city notorious for devastating floods. But on second thought, Phillip and Chandler figured it would be a better idea to build relationships with people in the community before making a big splash.

Already, the company has built relationships with the Houston Chamber of Commerce and the local hip hop record label Swishahouse.

Hurricane Harvey caused an estimated $125 billion in damages in Houston and the surrounding areas. Although there is only so much people can do to avoid costs after a hurricane hits, Phillip said his flotation device can help prevent people from losing irreplaceable belongings and save thousands of dollars in insurance.

While it was important to make connections in Houston, it was imperative to Phillip Patrick to settle the company's roots in Chattanooga.

"This is our home," he said. "We want to create jobs here."

Chandler Patrick is still not sure how many employees it will hire to start.

"The number of people we have is going to depend on the demand we face right out of the gate," he said. "One assembly line will probably manufacture 10 units every weeks and a half."

The group is in many phases at once. They are crunching numbers to see how many employees it will need, marketing to make sure people know that they'll soon be up and running and developing future prototypes.

At the end of the day, no matter how successful his company or the prototypes end up becoming, Phillip Patrick said that he's most excited about working with his family in this endeavor and putting together something his kids can look up to.

"I'm most excited about being able to work with my son and building something for my kids," he said.

Contact Patrick Filbin at pfilbin@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.

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