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MailTribune.com
  • Smoothing out the bumps

    A bent rim caused by driving over a metal road plate led Central Point man to invent a device to ease the ride
  • Chris Lane was taking his newly acquired dream car for a spin when he encountered a dose of reality.
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  • Chris Lane was taking his newly acquired dream car for a spin when he encountered a dose of reality.
    The black Porsche convertible with tan leather seats struck an unseen metal plate covering a trench in the road, sending a shiver down his spine and a ripple through the front wheel rim.
    He pulled over and jumped out to find his $1,800 rim bent.
    The teeth-jarring instant soon became an ahah moment.
    "I was livid," Lane admitted. "But it sparked something. Right then and there, I decided there had to be a better way. I had been in construction all my life and I knew about plastics. I always had great ideas and then would see the product a few years later. I thought 'Not this time, I'm going to do something about it.' "
    That was five years ago.
    It didn't take long for Lane to devise a — now patented — remedy he calls Plate Locks.
    It's a simple, nonmechanical device used to secure, and mark road plates, which before were either simply left as unmarked heavy metal speed bumps or perhaps had a dressing of cold-mix asphalt around their edges to nominally hold them in place.
    Lane's bright orange Plate Locks are fastened to the ground on four sides with lag bolts, but easily removed by construction workers the next day.
    He sells the locks for about $8 per linear foot and anticipates $240,000 in sales this year. He figures to double that in 2014 with the product already hitting both coasts and as a far away as Australia. For now, it's a two-person show he runs in Central Point with his wife Shannon, who has a background in accounting.
    "She does all the paperwork and I'm involved in sales by trade," said the former Countrywide Mortgage broker.
    Lane said sales might have surpassed current trends had he not sold the majority of his early inventory to Ferguson, a Virginia wholesale industrial equipment distributor that moved the locks to its retail outlets, but didn't explain what to do with them.
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