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At least one customer at ACS Precision Finish believes improving air quality is the cat's meow.
That would be Buck, a ginger tomcat who frequents the Salt Lake City auto body shop with his feline pals, Cinder and Minnie.
While painter Cory Kaggie applied three coats to a car door Tuesday, Buck trotted around to sniff the shoes of executives and journalists assembled for the awarding of the state's first Air Assist small-business grant.
In the past, the only scent Buck would have caught was paint fumes.
"Before, you'd walk in the shop, and it'd just blow you away. You'd have to have your mask on," Kaggie said. The 35-year-old has used solvent-based paints for almost 20 years before ACS switched to a water base. "This is like painting with water color. It's a big difference, and hopefully it'll help my longevity."
The Department of Workforce Services has set aside $300,000 in the next fiscal year to help small businesses improve air quality in sums between $500 and $15,000. ACS, which has to match the grant dollar for dollar, received the maximum $15,000 for Superior Paint Supply's water-based paint system identified by the Utah Clean Air partnership as having a potentially big impact.
The Division of Air Quality says that if all 2,580 Utah auto body industry workers used water- instead of solvent-based paint, daily emissions would fall by 572 pounds. Other businesses that might apply for the grants include dry cleaners, restaurants and print shops, a news release says.
Thus far there have been a handful of applicants, but the program has just started, said DWS spokesman Nic Dunn. "At first you have the problem of not enough people applying, and later we'll probably have the problem of too many."
ACS is owned by a father and son Candido and Anthony Gallegos. Anthony said he was hesitant to try something new after having spent so much time mastering the solvent-based paint techniques, but Superior Paint Supply "came in and showed me what I learned how to do in 20 years in about an hour."
The paint is a tad more expensive, but crews use half as much, making it cheaper overall. And because thus far it seems to do a better job of matching colors than the solvents sometimes did, Buck isn't the only one satisfied with the results.
"Everybody, I think, is [resistant] to change," Kaggie said, "but if it does the job easier and the color matches better ... then I'm all for it."
Businesses with fewer than 100 employees in Box Elder, Cache, Davis, Duchesne, Salt Lake, Tooele, Uintah, Utah and Weber counties may apply for an Air Assist grant at www.ucair.org.