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Painting a brighter future

December 20, 2010
By Phillip Bock

MARSHALL - Abra in Marshall is staying ahead of the competition and doing its part to cut down on pollution by switching to environmentally-friendly water-based auto paint.

Up until six months ago the shop was corporate-owned. It was then that Jim Brust, a 31-year auto body shop owner from Tyler, bought the shop and began implementing big changes.

"When this was a corporate store they bought very little in town," Brust said. "Now that it's locally-owned we changed companies to buy local."

Article Photos

Photo by Phillip Bock

Abra owner Jim Brust switched from using solvent auto paint to a more environmentally-friendly, water-based paint. Marshall’s Abra is the first in the state to make the switch.

One of the first items on his list was paint. Under Abra ownership, paint was purchased in large batches with other Abra shops in southwest Minnesota from companies in the cities. When Brust took over, his goal was to buy local. Solvent based paint, the main polluter at body shops, was the first to go.

"They're bad for the environment,"Brust said. "It's not good for the workers, it's not good for the town, it's not good for anything."

Switching to a local dealer and using water-based paint instead of solvent based cut down volatile emissions by up to 80 percent, he said. Water-based paint is also used by most car manufactures, Brust said, and the switch will allow Abra to color-match manufacture paints more closely than solvent based paints.

Due to the pollutants given off, solvent based car paints have been outlawed in Canada and most of California, he said, and a recent law in Wisconsin mandates that all body shops switch to water based paints by 2012.

"We expect Minnesota to put a law on the books pretty soon," Brust said.

Abra has one full time painter, John Thomsen, who was supportive of the switch to water-based paints.

"It sprays a lot different than the older paint," Thomsen said. "It's a more sensitive product but it works great as long as you know what you're doing."

The paint, called Envirobase, costs slightly more than solvent based paints, Brust said, but Abra does not pass the additional costs on to the consumer or insurance companies.

As an advantage, water based paint usually dries considerably faster then solvent based paints. Abra uses a baking booth to facilitate the drying of the paint, Thomsen said, while most body shops in the area use air-drying.

"We're able to paint a part in the morning, bake it till it's thoroughly cured, and install it the same day," Thomsen said. "It's possible to paint it and send it out the door on the same day. With air drying, you usually want to keep it overnight."

Brust said Abra is the first in Marshall to switch to water based paints and that he has been happy with the results.

"We want to be sensitive to the environment," he said. "We're trying to do our part."



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