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One Community Auto of ABQ picks up national award


Gary Peterson is the owner of One Community Auto, a business that fixes up cars that are donated to charities. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — One Community Auto of Albuquerque was one of three small businesses from among 102 nationwide to win the Grand Championship award from SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer business mentors.

It’s the second year in a row that an Albuquerque company has won the award, according to a news release. Last year, Ninja Park took home the grand prize.

One Community owner Gary Peterson received the $25,000 award at a gala in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 14. Peterson said he plans to use the money to pursue an expansion plan.

“My goal is to create a donation center where people can donate anything they want to help a charity, from cars to crockpots.” Peterson will head to Purdue University soon to attend a Veterans Entrepreneur Program and hammer out details of his expansion.

The American Small Business Championship is open to all small businesses in the U.S.

One Community Auto, a used car dealership at 300 Wyoming SE, refurbishes donated cars and sells them. It gives 60 percent of the sales price to a charity of the donor’s choice. That approach allows the company to get five to 10 times more for a car than the charity would have received at auction, Peterson said. One Community Auto also operates as a traditional used car dealership.

“I about fell out of my chair,” Peterson said of the moment One Community Auto was announced as a winner. “Ninja Park won last year, so I kind of thought that was going to work against us. (SCORE) might not want to give the award to the same city two years in a row.”

Peterson began the company in 2013 after retiring from the Air Force with the rank of major. He served three tours in Iraq during his 23 years of service.

Peterson received help from the Department of Veterans Affairs to start his business and gives back heavily to veterans charities. Peterson told the Journal the company began with a single charity and now works with more than 20.