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Sunday, 24 November 2013 18:36

Schupan & Sons to expand Grand Rapids presence

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A Kalamazoo-based metal and plastics recycler plans to expand its capacity at an existing site in Grand Rapids by year’s end.

Schupan & Sons Inc. currently leases 65,000 square feet of space in Grand Rapids, which it plans to buy and add on to for a total of more than 160,000 square feet, said Marc Schupan, CEO of the company founded by his late father in 1968. The Grand Rapids expansion will allow Schupan & Sons to get into other processes relating to recycling, he said.

A string of recent expansions and acquisitions are positioning the company to continue the steady growth pattern it has been on for more than 40 years, Schupan said. The privately held Schupan & Sons has annual revenues of about $250 million and 400 employees across its three divisions that span Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.

The business recycles industrial scrap and sells and distributes new metal and plastic-mill products for industries ranging from automotive and medical to pneumatics and furniture.

Schupan wouldn’t comment on the location of its expanded Grand Rapids office. The firm currently lists its beverage recycling division’s Grand Rapids location as 3710 Roger B. Chafee Drive SE.

In addition to the recycling and material sales part of the business, Schupan & Sons is also the nation’s largest independent recycler, processor and broker of used beverage containers. Through the joint venture Used Beverage Container Recovery or UBCR LLC with TOMRA of North America Inc., Schupan & Sons collects and processes beverage containers made of various materials from Michigan’s largest grocery stores. 

“Beverage is usually a pretty steady business,” Schupan said. “But there’s been a lack of volume and the public is going away from some of the soft drinks and going toward some healthy alternatives, and that’s been a bit of a challenge.”

Efforts to expand the 1976 Michigan bottle deposit law to include non-carbonated beverages such as water bottles have been unsuccessful, although a coalition of conservation, environmental, agricultural and other groups have come out in favor of the expansion.

“If water bottles were added, it would be a major growth area,” Schupan said.

As the company looks to continue growth both organically and by acquisitions, it puts each potential deal through a series of filters, including the distance of the target company from the Schupan & Sons headquarters in Kalamazoo.

“We’re always looking for acquisitions that would geographically make sense for us,” Schupan said. “Somewhere between 250 and 300 miles geographically is a comfort zone for us.

“We once had a plant in Austin, Texas, and from that we learned a lot about managing from afar. It was challenging.”

The company also recently expanded its aluminum distribution operations in Kalamazoo to add machining capacity. The acquisition this year of Tri-State Aluminum, which is now part of Schupan Aluminum and Plastic, added facilities in Dayton and Toledo, Ohio, as well as 75 employees and about 75,000 square feet. The division’s Kalamazoo facility has about 110,000 square feet of space and the Industrial Scrap division in Kalamazoo and Elkhart, Ind. total about 170,000 square feet.

Through its distribution business, Schupan & Sons also supplies custom extrusions, precision cutting, CNC machining, welding, bending, stamping and drilling. To date, the firm has limited the scale of the manufacturing business to not compete directly with its more than 1,000 service center customers, Schupan said. The distribution service center stocks thousands of items made out of materials such as aluminum, industrial plastics and copper.

“We’re seeing nice growth in the distribution side,” Schupan said. “The market’s been pretty weak in industrial scrap, and that’s mostly a function of the market.”

The ability to determine areas with growth potential is what led Schupan to buy an electronics recycling company in Indiana and more recently Mid-Michigan Recyclers, a small electronics scrap business in Alma.

“This is a natural fit for us because we have 800 industrial plants we handle on the scrap side and about 10,000 aluminum distribution customers, and they all have electronics that need to be recycled,” he said.

As a result of the focus on electronics recycling and the growth in the industrial scrap area, the company is expected to add between 15 to 20 employees next year to its current staff of 400.

“You’re always needing to look for areas that are value added and you need to do something a little different than your competitors,” Schupan said.

The scrap recycling business has an economic impact of nearly $244 million across West Michigan and more than $1.1 billion in the state as a whole, according to data from the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries.

This year, Schupan & Sons was named as one of Alcoa Co.’s top North American scrap suppliers by its recycling and scrap purchasing group. Schupan & Sons has recently won other awards recognizing its sustainability efforts and the opportunities it provides to its employees.

CEO Schupan said he thinks the company’s success has a lot to do with attracting and retaining talented and motivated people, some of whom have been with the company for more than 20 years.

“I think we built a good foundation. It’s pretty simple and old-fashioned: We treat our customers as we wish to be treated. If we make a mistake we admit it. There’s nothing nearly so clever as honesty and sincerity,” he said. “Most of our new business is companies coming to us who have had a good experience and companies they refer.”

Read 5466 times Last modified on Friday, 22 November 2013 14:05

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