Growing up in Philomath and staying close to home to earn mechanical engineering degrees at Oregon State University, Mark McGuire places great importance on local connections. Beyond those strong bonds with his hometown, McGuire wants to help small businesses through mechanical work that might not be available to them otherwise.
Enter McGuire Mechanism — a hands-on engineering consulting business that McGuire established in February.
“I’m a real homebody and the way I think is people have a responsibility for their ‘place,’” McGuire said. “My community is Philomath and so at some level, I have a responsibility to satisfy the needs of this community and I have certain talents that I can offer.
“In theory, I’m just getting paid to do what I want to do,” he added. “It’s not all sunshine and roses, I understand it’s hard work and lots of it is painful, but it’s a lifestyle. It’s something I enjoy thinking about even though it can be hard and challenging.”
McGuire considered various factors while putting his business idea in motion.
“I was trying to find the intersection between what I enjoy and what I’m good at and where there’s a real need — not just what people will pay for but what the community needs for its well-being and also what the environment needs for its well being,” McGuire said. “I thought establishing a consultancy in mechanical engineering would check the boxes for what I know how to do and what I enjoyed doing and then catering it toward small farmers and small businesses.”
Philomath has a number of small production operations and processing plants. McGuire explained what he can to help those types of clients.
“As an engineer, I can go in and take measurements and map out those processes and help business owners optimize the flow of their systems,” McGuire said. “Another thing that I can help with is custom part machinery and system design.”
Take the agricultural sector, for example.
“There are plenty of products on the market for relatively high-scale production because that’s where the money is,” McGuire said. “But when you get down to the smaller farms, the operations are so specific to their little plot of land and so specific to their own abilities and micro economy, that there’s few mass-produced products to fit their business model.”
McGuire, through his consultancy, takes things down to the micro-farm level through custom parts, machinery, systems and so on.
For example, one of his past projects was designing an electric tractor with pedal assist.
“You can buy these big diesel tractors, which are great if you have 40-plus acres but what if you have four acres? It’s a little bit too much to do by hand but it’s not enough to justify a huge machine,” McGuire said. “And so this is sort of a super light-duty cultivator that with a couple of horsepower, you can manage a reasonable-sized plot, not a really big farm, but also not a little backyard garden — something in between.”
As a consultant and professional engineer, McGuire interfaces with customers and works with subcontractors to help with design and production.
McGuire hopes his business model in Philomath might inspire similar ventures in other small towns.
“One of the trends is that most engineers leave home … I think that is becoming a problem,” McGuire said. “The vast majority of engineers go and work for large remote companies and so all the other businesses have to compete for the remaining engineers and it drives up their price. It makes engineering support unaffordable for smaller businesses.”
Serving those smaller needs, McGuire said, would generally be healthier for small communities.
Said McGuire, “Not that small is necessarily better than big — I think big companies are important and have their place — but small companies tend to be more personal and transparent and keep currency local for folks.”
McGuire’s door is open to students who have an interest in learning more about mechanical engineering.
“With our proximity to OSU, there’s a lot of great resources for mechanical engineering student interns and that kind of thing,” he said. “Anyone’s going to have to be trained, anyone’s going to learn on the job — high school kids, college kids.”
McGuire is building a portfolio of examples and real-world engineering problems that have been solved — work and knowledge that could help others.
“What we’re realizing is this is a lot of good content that can be shared with upcoming engineers, mechanical engineering students, other engineers who are studying for their professional engineering exam and also high school kids who are curious about mechanical engineering,” he said.
As a result, McGuire Mechanism launched a course he’s calling “The ABCs of Mechanical Engineering.”
“We are about to get into some real mechanical engineering content and the goal is to — at the same time we give real engineers a refresher for their professional licensing exam — we also keep it really relevant, showing real-world examples through our work as a consultancy,” he said.
In other words, someone in their garage or on their farm can apply real mechanical engineering skills just in their day-to-day work.
“That’s what I’m most excited about,” McGuire said. “That course will have free public content through YouTube” and in addition, there will be a paid option that includes one-on-one time with McGuire through Zoom and give access to more in-depth content.
McGuire will be the speaker at a July 6 program entitled, “Engineering in the Farm of the Future” at 6:30 p.m. at Marys River Grange Hall.