One evening a young man drove his car through a stop sign and slammed into the motorcycle that Jason Terry was riding to the grocery store. His injuries were severe: broken pelvis, broken femur, broken shoulder, and traumatic brain injury that ended a 15-year career building custom log cabins in Montana.
It was disheartening because Jason had been on the verge of starting his own company.
For several years he'd been making custom log furniture. He'd truck several pieces from his home in Montana to his wife's hometown of Owatonna, to sell them at the county fair.
In 2004 he left his wife and kids to mind the furniture booth at the Steele County Free Fair and flew back to Montana to build log cabins. That's when the crash happened.
His involvement with the Vocational Rehabilitation program began in Montana. He could no longer manage strenuous work, so he sought training in a less active occupation: health information technology. But five years in college ended with no degree, no certification and no job.
In 2010 Jason and his family moved from Montana to Minnesota. Here there was family support and an opportunity start over. Jason got involved with the VR program in Owatonna, and worked with a counselor named Holly Johnson. His dizziness and fainting spells had gone away, his strength had returned, and he was thinking about going back to building log cabins.
Holly put him in touch with Ed Clayton, the VRS small business specialist, and Doug Johnson at the Owatonna Business Incubator, to develop a viable business plan. VRS also offered financial assistance to buy tools—and a new business was born: Montana Log Art, just off I-35 near the Medford Outlet Mall. The lodge pole pines come from Montana. A couple of employees help Jason assemble the cabins in an industrial building owned by his wife's family.
On a sunny day in November, Jason proudly showed off his latest project, a huge two-story log cabin that was custom-built for a family near the Iron Range city of Babbitt. It was the day before the structure would be disassembled and loaded onto a truck to be shipped to its ultimate destination. It's a beautiful building. "I figure one of these every year, or two smaller cabins a year, and I'll pretty much have it," he said.