If necessity is the mother of invention, then Eric Paulson's dad just might be the father. Or at least a cousin. Wilt Paulson started a company called LEKTROin 1945. What Wilt and LEKTRO did was convert military aircraft into private use. Then he got into the business of turning some of them into agricultural planes, crop dusters. Then, well then, along came the mink farmer.
Paul Autio was having trouble feeding his mink on his rural Oregon mink farm. He asked Wilt if he couldn't build something that would do the job and run on batteries. The 'feeder' Autio was using gas powered, and the carbon monoxide emissions were bad for the mink. (Actually they caused the mink to eat their young--bad for the bottom line.) Wilt went to work on the idea, came up with a contraption that did the trick, and went into production.
One problem. The actual demand for mink feeders was a little low. No worries. Based on his design, Wilt started building electric golf carts, the first. Those worked great! So well that larger companies came along and started building them too. Wilt couldn't compete. So now what?
How about electric powered airplane tugs? You know, those machines that pull and push airplanes around at airports. Wilt turned the chassis around on his mink feeder, added a little more battery power, AND they're still in that business today and growing faster than a mink ever did.
LEKTRO is based here in Warrenton, just outside Astoria. It's an unlikely place for a manufacturing facility. It's two hours over the coastal range from Portland with the only major airport two hours away. But it's where Eric, who heads up the company now, was born and raised and it's where the company is going to stay. The LEKTRO tug, with three thousand in service at airports around the world, is a true game changer, a better 'mouse trap'. It's easier on the planes, easier on power, easier on the atmosphere, no emissions.
After all, remember what happened to those minks! The true American spirit of invention alive and well in the great Northwest. See you at the airport.
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