High Gas Prices Vex Local Business

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COLUMBIA - The average price for a gallon of gasoline has jumped eight cents over the past two weeks, with both positive and negative effects for Columbia businesses.

Landscape Division Manager Patrick Hickerson, who works at Grizzly Bear Lawn Care, said the gas prices are hitting his company hard. The market is not allowing it to increase its prices to keep profit margins.

"We probably spend over $500 a day in fuel, between diesel fuel and gasoline. We have to use premium fuel in our mowers and in our small equipment," he said.

The company has cut back to just one gas-powered engine in its fleet, he said.

But some businesses are profiting because of the increase in gas prices.

General Sales Manager Steve Rennells said Kia Head Motor Company is benefiting. He said he sees more customers when prices go up because Kias get good fuel mileage.

"Our business is up 20 percent from what is what last year," Rennells said.

"We had some folks the other day that came in and they were averaging 15 miles a gallon with their vehicle, and left in a vehicle that was getting 38," Rennells said.

Hickerson said more people are carpooling to work every day, something he rarely saw last year.

"There have been a lot of complaints about gas prices and just getting to work," Hickerson said.

He said Grizzly Bear is looking for ways to continue their business in a more cost- efficient way. Right now, the company uses roughly 50 gallons of gas each day. By using diesel trucks, the company is able to get double the fuel mileage, Hickerson said.

"We also are going to switch to propane for our mowers," he said.

The Lundberg Survey of fuel prices released Sunday said the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline is $3.97. Mid-grade gas averaged at $3.85 and premium is $3.99.

Of the cities surveyed in the lower 48 states, Charleston, S.C., has the nation's lowest average price for gas at $3.34. Chicago has the highest at $4.10.

Missouri falls below the national average, at $3.50 for a gallon of regular gasoline. Columbia averages five cents cheaper at $3.45, according to MissouriGasPrices.com.

Websites like GasPriceWatch.com and GasBuddy.com also allow drivers to search for the lowest prices by city.