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Costs are piling up at Harold's Auto Service like dirt on an air filter.
Owner Harold Dick spent $10,000 for Freon recycling equipment at his Southeast Portland repair shop. He has plowed $15,000 into computerized testing equipment to keep up with late-model cars. And on top of that, health and dental insurance premiums for his nine employees and their dependents have crept up to $1,500 a month.
But amid Dick's stack of bills is a glimmer of good news: His workers' compensation insurance tab has taken a dive.
"I'm paying about half what I was five years ago," said Dick, whose annual cost in 1994 will be $6,000. "Now if I could just do the same with shop insurance."
Automobile repair shops--whose combined payroll of $197.9 million makes them one of the state's largest industries--averaged a drop of some 12 …