Collins Auto Clean Up is the name of Collins’ family-operated business, but it is about much more than washing cars. Beautification extends to cleaning up airplanes, the exterior of commercial buildings and just about anything that can be cleaned with a pressure washer.
It wasn’t long after Norman Whitfield wrote the hit Car Wash in 1976 when Collins began his cleanup business. The opening line to the tune goes, “You might not ever get rich, but let me tell ya it’s better than diggin’ a ditch,” a line that Collins, a Rome city commissioner, will offer up a big “amen” to.
“I’ve been well blessed no doubt; it’s been a real good run. I’ve been able to raise my kids and provide for my family, moved around town a whole lot, when situations allowed for me to, and made friends on all sides of town,” Collins said.
Collins said he was trained by a brother in Birmingham back in the late 1970s and decided to return to business in Rome so he could bring up his family near their grandparents.
Collins was raised in West Rome, the same area that he presently represents on the City Commission.
He’s operated shops in the Avenue C area, on Martha Berry Highway, Broad Street, then back to West Rome on Hanks Street.
The business has truly been a family business for Collins. “Absolutely my wife Faith has been here with me by my side for all these years I’ve been in business,” Collins said. “She runs the front office, and I’m out in the field.”
His wife’s brother, Tim Wilson, has also been with the business for most of the past 32 years. “I started with him right after he got started,” Wilson said. “You know with the way things change, you have to expand, so we took the detailing, expanded it to doing other types of cleaning services. If you attach clean, if you define clean, then you can branch it off to whatever. We’ve taken detailing and expanded it to much more than automobiles. We do anything that has the word clean behind it.”
Growing from washing and detailing personal vehicles was a task that Collins set out to do in a very intentional manner. One of Collins’ first fleet washing contracts was with Sears in Rome many years ago. Since then, Collins has had contracts to clean vehicles for a number of automobile dealers in the Rome area. The company then was able to hook up with Floyd Medical Center. “Beautification of the ambulances at Floyd was also one of my first commercial accounts,” Collins said.
Collins then got into pressure washing and cleaning of commercial properties in the Rome area and expressed gratitude to Craig McDaniel, president of Georgia Northwestern Technical College, for allowing Collins to get a foot in the door at the Rome campus.
“One of my crown jewels this past year in this area is the beautification of the big Citizens First Bank building downtown. It’s a jewel for this city. It sits on a corner lot right across from the Chamber of Commerce,” Collins said. That displays a lot of the beautification work we do for things other than cars.” Citizens First contracted with Collins for beautification work in conjunction with the celebration of their 100th anniversary in Rome in 2011.
For a while, Collins dabbled in rehabilitation of old housing and commercial properties, under the business of Bill Collins Builders. Officials in the city clerk’s office indicate that Collins has not renewed that business license since 2008.
Collins said he was approached about 16 years ago by then Commissioner Ronnie Wallace and the late commissioner Napoleon Fielder about submitting his name for consideration for a vacancy on the commission. “I had been involved with the Chamber of Commerce, and I was told by Tom Sills at that point you might want to think about running for commissioner,” Collins said. He was a little reluctant at first but warmed up to the idea in relatively short order.
“I still didn’t know at that time what that really meant to me, but someone thought that I might be good for the citizens of Rome, and they recruited me to allow them to put my name in the hat,” Collins said. He was formally appointed to the vacancy and has been a leading vote-getter for seats representing West Rome in each subsequent election.
Collins is the city appointee to the Downtown Development Authority board and sits on the steering committee for the upcoming development of a downtown master plan, which he hopes will go a long way toward growing and beautifying the downtown heart of Rome.