Small businesses now have access to funding that will help improve air quality. The UCAIR Air Assist program offers funds to small businesses to buy equipment upgrades that will reduce emissions. The first grant recipient is an auto body shop in Salt Lake City.
ACS Precision Finish is using about $15,000 of state money to upgrade from a solvent to a water-based paint system. Corey Kaggie, a painter in the shop, is dressed in a white protective body suit, goggles, and a face mask. She says the new paint certainly smells better.
“It smells like water, like you’re painting with your paintbrush, where before you walk into the shop, and it’s like wow, that’s toxic. This, it doesn’t have as much fumes, it’s just awesome,” Kaggie says.
The state Division of Air Quality estimates that if the entire auto body industry in Utah switches to water-based paint, it would reduce more than 570 pounds of emissions daily. In fact, the industry will be required to make this change by 2015 to comply with new air quality regulations. The challenge for small businesses is the cost to make the upgrades. Ted Wilson is Executive Director for the Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR) which is administering the state grants.
“We believe that by helping businesses meet the deadline, particularly these paint shops, we bring two good things to bear; we keep jobs, we allow people to still get their car fixed, and at the same time breathe better air,” Wilson says.
UCAIR has more than a million dollars available through the state Department of Workforce Services to help small businesses reduce emissions through improved equipment. In addition to auto body shops, dry cleaners, restaurants, print shops and other small businesses with under 100 employees can apply. The businesses are required to match the grant funds dollar for dollar. The deadline for the current funding period is June 30th.