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Up From The Onion Fields

An immigrant's startup has a plan to cut pollution in ports


Ruben Garcia came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was three, squeezed into a station wagon with his mother, stepfather, and nine siblings. The family settled in California's Central Valley, where Garcia and his brothers picked onions, carrots, and potatoes after school. Says Garcia, who still can't stand onions: "Once you've worked on a farm like I did, you never want to go back."

Garcia no longer has to break his back in the sun. The company he founded, Advanced Cleanup Technologies Inc. in Rancho Dominguez, Calif., has a lucrative niche cleaning up after industrial accidents. Garcia's business employs 250 people and has doubled in size in the past five years. Last year, Garcia netted $8 million on sales of $40 million.

Now Garcia has invested $8 million in a risky new venture aimed at reducing air pollution from idling ships and trains at ports and railroad terminals. With towns near Long Beach harbor complaining of the rising number of young children with asthma, Garcia says, "It's an ongoing problem, and it's killing people."

Garcia got his start in business right after high school, when he began working at his dad's hazardous waste transport company. Garcia saw that federal regulations passed after the Exxon Valdez oil spill would require specialized workers to clean up after industrial accidents. Borrowing $8,000 from one of his father's customers, he bought a used vacuum truck

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