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June/July 2010 – Web Exclusive

Amarillo’s Sage Oil Vac Cleans Up

Sage Oil Vac’s skid unit can be moved easily with a fork lift.

Oil Changes Lead to Career Change

by David Bloom

Many businesses are named after their founders. Sometimes, the name is a perfect match for the product, such as Carpenter’s Cabinetry or Bloom’s Florist. In the case of Sage Oil Vac, the name reflects Gary Sage’s wisdom in pioneering an oil-changing technique that quickly spread by word of mouth to local ranchers — and by word of Internet to far-flung international markets.

L to R: Aaron Sage, Chief Operating Officer; Helen Sage, President; Gary Sage, CEO.

Back in 1993, Sage had grown frustrated by the messy task of changing oil in the engines of the large irrigation systems on his farm near the Panhandle town of Dalhart. The chore would frequently end with oil spilled on the ground, and more than a little on him.

So Sage designed and built a system to vacuum up used oil directly from the engine pan. It proved to be far easier and allowed oil changes to be made in half the time. Soon, his fellow farmers were asking him to build them oil vacuum systems as well.

Within a decade, he was manufacturing Sage Oil Vacs full time and the company’s products were being used in all 50 states and Canada. While the oil vacuum was initially conceived to solve an agricultural-related challenge, other industries, such as construction and oil and gas, quickly embraced the technique. Today, government agencies and the military also use Sage Oil Vacs to maintain their heavy equipment.

Sage’s first international sale came in 2004, when the government of Jordan purchased an oil vacuum-equipped truck after learning about Sage’s capabilities. A sourcing agent for the Moroccan government also discovered Sage through the Internet. Further orders came from foreign companies that have oil distribution deals with Texas-based global energy companies such as Conoco Phillips and ExxonMobil.

The Wales-based Chemical Corporation, Ltd., recently signed a deal to be the exclusive distributor of Sage Oil Vac Wind’s Gear Oil Exchange Systems in Europe. The Welsh firm is developing a customer-service package to offer oil changes to Europe’s growing wind turbine industry.

Going Global

Do you know of a smaller Texas company that is making strides in cultivating international sales? Let us know and we might profile it in an upcoming issue.

And while its Wind Gear Exchange Unit was devised to serve the embryonic wind energy industry, Sage Oil Vac believes that it has far greater business potential in other aspects of power generation, such as servicing large gearboxes in coal-burning and nuclear power plants in the U.S. and abroad.

The biggest obstacles Sage Oil Vac faces in exporting its products overseas are minor differences between U.S. and European standards for pressure equipment.

Sage has turned to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s West Texas U.S. Export Assistance Center in Midland to help resolve the issues resulting from these differing standards, which can increase production time and costs by some 25 percent. Sage also is part of the Commerce Department’s Gold Key program, which can help it connect with qualified international distributors.

According to Chief Operating Officer Aaron Sage, exports accounted for nearly 30 percent of the company’s business in 2009.

With the domestic market hurting from the recession, “last year was a very good one to be active in the global arena,” says Sage. FN

Read the whole “Going Global” series:

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