Mar 22, 2015

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Small Business Opportunities in a Transportation Transition 

Jim Houser is not your typical small business owner. In his 30-plus years running a repair garage, he’s witnessed a subtle but substantial revolution: that of the automobile. “We work extensively on both domestic and imported vehicles,” Jim says. “I’ve seen the cars I work on become more energy-efficient as consumers embrace technological innovation.” And with that embrace, new opportunities are born - to increase employee knowledge and specialization, grow the business, specialize in new areas of the industry, and most notably, to offer more local jobs.

“I’m excited about these opportunities! Things are changing, and changing fast. From hybrids with solar panels on the roof, to plug-ins you can drive for most of your daily routine, after charging them from a regular wall outlet, while you sleep. These technologies are practical and viable.”

Jim sees the clean-energy economy is no longer a pie-in-the-sky, far-reaching idea. It’s here. It’s with great enthusiasm he talks about the potential of continuing innovation in this area. He explains that every certified mechanic has the basic skill set  to work on alternative-fuel vehicles. “It’s not too difficult or costly to get trained, and the investment in new tools is pretty minimal.” With this investment, an auto repair shop like Jim’s can expand into a whole new business stream.

“Right now we work on two to three hybrids a day”, Jim says, “and we’re also the warranty service center for an entire make of EV’s. There is so much potential here if we continue to invest in these technologies.”

Oregon is truly a pioneer in technological innovation. Coined “the Silicon Forest,” Oregon is home to known innovative companies like Intel, Nike, FEI and SolarWorld, to name a few. We can further Oregon’s role as an innovative state through further investment in a clean, energy-efficient economy. Jim’s business is but one example of this. In addition to performing repairs of alternative-fuel vehicles, they work with organizations like Drive Oregon to repurpose high-voltage EV/hybrid batteries for new uses. Jim placed solar panels on the roof of Hawthorne Auto Clinic in 2008, making the energy spent on performing repair work even cleaner.

“We have a whole range of alternative technologies at our disposal”, says Jim. We just have to invest in the infrastructure. The more we invest, the less expensive it is for the regular consumer and small business owners to utilize these technologies.”

Jim hopes to see Oregon continue its pioneering spirit through leading the way in the creation of a renewable, clean-energy economy. He believes that with more investment in alternative energies, small business owners like him can support local job creation and run thriving businesses. He knows this, because he’s experienced it first-hand.