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Hart graduate head of Alaska company

Posted: August 22, 2008 8:34 p.m.
Updated: October 24, 2008 5:03 a.m.
 

Nearly 30 years ago, Ken Forster was living in Newhall, where he attended Hart High School and worked his first job at Six Flag Magic Mountain's animal farm.

Decades later, Forster has found a new home in Fairbanks, Alaska and serves as president of CEO of APC Group Inc., a fast-growing company that recently became publicly traded.

While his business career may have grown tremendously since leaving the local area, the former Saugus resident believes his beginnings in Santa Clarita played a role in the success of APC Group Inc. and its products for hospitals and cars in cold climates.

Forster said started his first business while attending Hart High. After undergoing open heart surgery at the age of 15, Forster, who later graduated with the class of 1979, became convinced at how precious and short life is, he said in a phone interview.

He soon got to work organizing his first business, which involved wood and metal shop students crafting projects for Forster to sell at the local swap meet. He would then share the profits with his classmates.

After graduation, Forster, whose father served as captain of the Newhall California Highway Patrol station for nearly a decade, moved into the telecommunications industry.

In 2000, Forster decided to move to Alaska to be with his children, who were living with his former wife.

New to the area, Forster soon became weatherman for a television station and began at University of Alaska Fairbanks, studying broadcast journalism.

Adjusting to life in Alaska, Forster began to notice the daily habits of Alaska's residents. "Why does everybody have extension cords hanging out of the front of the car?" he recalled asking his classmates and colleagues.

The extension cords, he found out, were because engines frequently froze over and drivers had to use plug-in engine block warmers in their cars.

Because people often left cars idling, the air quality was deemed poor. "We have the worst air in all of the United States," he said.

The situation inspired Forster to invent a retractable cord that would make plugging in a car much easier.

At the same time, drivers would be able to turn their cars off, resulting in fewer emissions.

Known as the Arctic Leash, Forster said the product was quick to gain popularity in the cold state.

Additionally, Forster said there is now a demand in the rest of the United States among electric car users and in the nautical world.

Along the lines of the Arctic Leash, Forster's company introduced the Med Reel, designed to eliminate "trip and fall scenarios" in hospital operating rooms.

Forster's Med Reel made its Hollywood debut when the product was shown on NBC's "ER."

Not to mention, the Arctic Leash has been featured on The History Channel's "Modern Marvels."

As APC Group Inc. gained attention, as the company oversees 40 products, which Forster has invented or assisted in designing, the Hart grad said he was able to take the company public.

Going public has not only strengthened the Forster's business career, but has also been a milestone for Alaska.

"We're the first company in the history of Fairbanks to be on the stock market," he said. "It's the sixth company in the history of Alaska to go public."

Forster maintains that the support of his early supporters and drive to produce the Arctic Leash and other products for the company's success.

"We did it our way from beginning to end," he said.

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