Wednesday, December 7, 2011

December 1, 2011

Avakian Honors Outstanding Oregon Employers

BOLl chiefnames 2011 champions in civil rights and worliforce development

PORTLAND- Today, State Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, head of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI), presented the 3rd Annual BOLI Business Leadership Awards at BOLI's 27th Annual Employment Law Conference at the Oregon Convention Center. This year, two Oregon employers were recognized for their significant contributions to our communities and their embodiment of BOLI's mission: to protect employment rights, advance employment opportunities, and protect access to housing and public accommodations free from discrimination. This year's honorees are:

Civil Rights Champion - Hawthorne Auto Clinic of Portland

Hawthorne Auto co-owners Jim Houser and Liz Dally were nominated for their efforts to foster a more livable community. Houser's work to increase small business employees' access to healthcare and to provide career paths in mechanical fields for diverse youth, and Dally's support for Bradley­Angle House and leadership on workplace protections for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking-a civil right enforced by BOLI, coupled with their business commitment to the environment as a certified Eco-Logical Business, helped earn Hawthorne Auto this year's Civil Rights Champion award.

Workforce Development Champion - SE Works of Portland

For 14 years, SE Works has helped build positive connections between job seekers and employers. The extraordinary efforts of SE Works to assist job seekers, especially low-income, multi-barriered individuals, in seeking and applying for jobs have also translated to strong relationships with employer who will reach out to SE Works when they need reliable help. The range of services and programs offered by SE Works helped to set them apart as this year's Workforce Development Champion.

Avakian created the BOLI Business Leadership Awards in 2009 to recognize the good work that Oregon's employers do every day for the community, their workers, and the future of Oregon's economy.


The mission of the Bureau of Labor and Industries is to protect employment rights, advance employment opportunities, and protect access to housing and public accommodations free from discrimination.

Here's our acceptance speech:

(Liz says employment discrimination has worked for her, because without it, she never would have gone into business)

We are honored but a little flabbergasted to be chosen for this award. I must confess that we have no hundred page corporate civil rights policy, no full time paid lobbyist for just causes, and no ambitious multifaceted retraining program for the disadvantaged.

After all, we are a 13 person small business and have no direct effect outside our shop except by using whatever influence we have, as gadfly to our industry and advocate for the community.

For the past 29 years a focus of our enterprise has been developing a workplace which functions for the benefit of our customers, our employees, and our neighborhood. Although occasionally we do show a profit, and fiscal stability is necessary, obsession with “the bottom line” for its own sake clearly causes real harm in our society.

To our colleagues who whine “But I’m just a small business person, I can’t afford to…(fill in the blank here: offer health insurance, make accommodation for the worker who is also a caregiver, or hire an apprentice)” we make this challenge: Get creative, think about what you can do, because together, all of us small business people will make a difference.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Getting to One Million Electric Vehicles

"We can break our dependence on oil... and become the first country to have one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. The future is ours to win."
- President Barack Obama, State of the Union address, January 2011

Getting to a million E.V.s (ElectricVehicles) quickly is both an important goal and a daunting challenge that has less to do with the ambition than with its achievement. A community can seemingly do all the right things to get prepared by enlisting vehicle and charging providers, aligning public policy, and identifying financial incentives and yet still miss the target. Why? Because the willingness and interest of the driving and buying public can be as important as the volatility of oil prices and the pace of battery advancements . The reality is,

EV adoption depends upon the vehicle buyers.

On November 2nd and 3rd John Mayer, Hawthorne Auto Clinic intern, and I attended EV Roadmap 4: Getting to a Million, the latest in a twice yearly series produced by Portland State University and Portland General Electric to advance transportation electrification. This fall’s EV Roadmap considered the challenge of reaching one million EVs on US roads by examining what motivates consumers to adopt them. Through a combination of activities – panel discussions, expert presentations, a live focus group, and breakout discussions – we considered our own commitment to EV adoption and explored the role we each might play through 2015.

The EV adoption issues we considered:

· Is the 2015 one million EV goal doable, and is the target number for Oregon, 30,000 EVs, realistic?

· What are consumers’ perceptions of the strengths and weaknesses of EVs, and how do we respond positively to their misconceptions and reservations?

· How do we understand the ways different types of drivers might be induced to consider an EV?

· What influence do fuel prices and various government incentives have on EV buying decisions?

· How are groups regionally and nationally addressing this challenge, and how can we work together to help each other?

We learned about Portland’s own Electric Avenue at Portland State University: Be sure to visit and see what’s charging.

The Oil Shockwave exercise conducted by a representative of Securing America’s Future Energy brought us back to Earth with the realization of the depth of our continuing dependence on oil. Get scared at:

We learned about electric vehicle initiatives taking place in other parts of the country, like New York City:

We examined ways to create our own EV social movement through projects like Plug In America’s:

And we met the right people in the Portland Transportation Bureau and PGE to, hopefully, finally install a curbside charging station at Hawthorne Auto Clinic. I will follow up with further updates as our charging station project moves forward.

-Jim Houser

Monday, June 20, 2011

Prius Day at PCC

The Portland area has a very active Meetup Group, , for Toyota hybrid fans, organized and administered by the very capable Bill Merchant. On Saturday, June 18, 2011, the Portland HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive) group met at Portland Community College (PCC), Sylvania Campus, in the automotive department.

For the past few years PCC/Automotive has been creating a gas/electric hybrid technician training program. PCC recently hosted several train-the-trainer, week-long classes devoted to hybrid HV battery maintenance and reconditioning and hybrid motor/generator diagnosis and trending. Their hybrid training initiative has been featured recently in local media.

PCC hosted our HSD group to demonstrate the new test equipment they have acquired and to show off their staff-created cutaway Gen. II Prius designed for technician training. Over 20 Portland HSD members were in attendance. The presentation was led by Carl Thompson, retired PCC/ASEP automotive instructor and Kim Kittinger, PCC automotive instructor. Carl made the Power Point presentation and both instructors participated in pointing out the different hybrid HV batteries and other components on display.

Gary Gaunke, Portland HSD and OEVA (Oregon Electric Vehicle Association) member, also brought his new all-electric Nissan Leaf to display.

The Portland HSD Meetup Group meets the third Saturday of every month, usually at a local roadhouse, to socialize and discuss our experiences with our Toyota hybrid vehicles. New faces with an interest in hybrids are always welcome.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Report on 2011 State of the Union Address

On January 25 I had the honor of attending the 2011 State of the Union Address as a guest of President and First Lady Obama. The previous week I had taken a call from the White House at my business, Hawthorne Auto Clinic that I co-own with my wife Liz Dally, asking me to join the First Lady in her box overlooking the U. S. House of Representative’s chamber in the Capitol. Military heroes, victims of the attempted assassination tragedy in Tucson, representatives of business, education and our government were among the 20 invited guests. On the evening of the Address, guests and family members (my daughter, Helen Dally, was able to join me) arrived at the gates of the White House. After a brief transit through security we were assigned a staff member who led us to our reception in the first floor Entrance Hall where we were graciously welcomed by Ms. Obama.

At 8pm, while family members (accompanied by Bo, the Obama family dog) remained behind to watch the Address on TV from the Blue Room, the invited guests were escorted to waiting vans and were sped, with lights and sirens, to the Capitol. The First Lady’s joined us after arriving with the President. We watched from our box as members of Congress entered, followed by several members of the Supreme Court, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the President’s cabinet, and finally, the President.

The President’s speech did not disappoint. He laid out a plan for focused investments in education and infrastructure, emphasizing America’s competitive advantage in, among other areas, green technologies. He challenged Americans to put aside partisan differences and he directed our government to achieve savings by freezing most spending and improving efficiencies.

But it was President Obama’s emphasis on his health care reform accomplishment, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) that most captured my attention. The reality is that most Americans under 65 rely on their employers for health care coverage and most Americans work for small businesses. Employee benefits, like health care, are important when competing for the best employees. Small businesses don’t have the clout to negotiate for lower health insurance premium prices the way large employers can. Over the last decade, health care costs have become a crushing weight for small businesses and many have dropped coverage all together. My company provides health care coverage for our 9 full-time employees and their families. Our premiums have doubled over the last 8 years to now equal $90,000, over 20% of payroll. The PPACA is already providing major health insurance premium relief to many of the 4 million eligible small businesses all across the country. According to our accountant we will be receiving a 2010 tax credit over $5,000 to help us pay our increased premiums. And there are even greater health care reforms slated to take effect in 2014.

As we returned to the White House following the Address I was struck by how truly unique our democracy is. Those of us joining Ms. Obama were not famous celebrities or major campaign contributors. In nearly every way we were a representative cross section of our citizenry. My fellow invitees and I participated in a Constitutionally mandated official duty of our President. The invitation to attend the State of the Union Address as a guest of our First Lady was a great honor.

Jim Houser
Hawthorne Auto Clinic, Inc.