Urness attended Oregon State University in Corvallis and the University of Utah in Salt Lake City – and was a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity at both institutions – before returning to his family’s dealership, which was originally founded by his grandfather in 1946.
“I started my automotive career in sales at our used-car center,” he said. “As technology advanced, I moved into new cars and handled the changing landscape of the industry, primarily as it related to computers, as none of the family members were inclined to do so.”
Today, Urness represents the third generation to lead the family enterprise and owns the dealership with his brother, uncle and cousin. “And the fourth generation is just starting in the business,” he said.
Urness credits the dealership’s longevity and success to the support of his family, longtime employees and loyal customer base. “Several of our employees have been here as long as I have and deserve the accolades,” he said. “We have also been blessed to have multi-generational clients and lifetime friends who support us through 75 years in our little community.”
With a pragmatic understanding of the retail automotive sector, Urness has offered his time and considerable expertise to the Oregon Auto Dealers Association, where he currently serves on the board of directors and was named president from 2016 to 2018 and vice president from 2014 to 2016. He has also led his local auto alliance, The Dalles New Car Dealers Association.
Urness is most proud of working to defeat Measure 97 in Oregon in 2016 by advocating on both the state and federal level. “It was rewarding to be part of the team to defeat this measure which proposed a state gross sales tax on business,” he said. “I was fortunate to lobby in Washington, D.C., and believe we had a significant impact on this legislation that would affect our industry. It was great to see the NADA and our state organization do the work our dealer bodies sent us to do.”
On a local level, Urness is on the board of the Columbia Gorge Regional Airport in nearby Dallesport, Washington, which has undergone infrastructure and safety upgrades and provides a gateway to the region.
“As part of a great team at the airport, we have acquired the stationing of several firefighting aircraft, which have been a gamechanger in fighting fires,” he said. “We have also increased our fueling capacity and support for our military air assets, as well as provided resources for our local community college to develop a course for aeronautic careers at the airport in the near future.”
Urness has also organized Dallesport Drags, which allows local car racers to compete at the airport in a safe, controlled environment while raising funds for local organizations. The race was part of the three-day Cruise the Gorge car show and event.
“During our decades-long involvement in our community, we have supported county fairs, livestock auctions, baseball clubs, cultural events, rodeos, the local hospital and community college and 4-H,” he said.
Urness was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Greg Remensperger, executive vice president of the Oregon Auto Dealers Association. He and his wife, Robin, have two children.