Out of Adversity comes Invention for his town

A job loss can be catastrophic for a person with a wife and two children. But for Norman J. it was inspirational. Having been laid off from his airplane mechanic position by Northwest Airlines in 2003, but unwilling to let a poor economy stifle his work ethic, he developed a project that he says will transform oil changes for cars. His invention: an environmentally friendly, re-usable oil filter that will save on natural resources. That's about all he says he can divulge at this point because the project is still in the patent process. Like a miner staying quiet about about a gold strike, Mr. J is careful not to let the details of his invention get too far from his home. Plans, drawings, and work materials hidden down in his basement office are the only signs that he may be sitting on a million dollar idea. "If it gets out someone could take the idea and run with it," Mr. J said. Part of the secrecy stems from an agreement he has with Coral Gables, Fla. based Invent-Tech, a marketing firm that advertises support for inventors in finding a manufacturer for their designs.

Jorge Puertas, an inventor relations specialist, said the company works within federal laws and delivers what it promises in a contract with inventors. After over a year of hammering out the design for the new oil filter, he is back working at Lockheed Martin. Mr. J said his path toward becoming an inventor exemplifies how work ethic and drive can catapult someone who is down on their luck. After the terrorist attack in 2001 which sent the airline industry into a dive, Mr. J was forced out of his job in Atlanta and had to commute to the major hub in the Northwest. Eventually the adversity of tiresome travel eroded further when he was laid off. With no work, Mr. J. said worries about providing for his family consumed him. But that didn't hamper his imagination.

"I had a lot of time to think" he said. His idea for a new kind of oil filter had been with him for a while. "I thought it was kind of stupid," he said. But one of Invent-Tech's late night commercials sparked his entrepreneurial spirit. He went to work on the idea fueled by his childhood passion for science. "My teacher's used to get on me for reading too many science books," Mr. J said. If all the work comes to no avail, it still wasn't a waste, he said. "It's worth the risk if it does something to make life better," he said.