Cass Recycling creating jobs

Published 11:12am Thursday, March 1, 2012

Robert Wallace of Dowagiac, president of Cassopolis Recycling, by April expects to start bringing a few much-anticipated jobs to the village.

Robert Wallace

His new company will be erecting two buildings on five acres at 849 Labar Drive in the industrial park.
Wallace, who has more than seven years in the industry, scouted several locations, but Cassopolis seems to offer the most potential.
Being welcomed with open arms by village officials is a bonus.
“We’ve been working on this for three or four months,” Wallace said Thursday. “We’re waiting on the engineer’s site plan. Once that gets done and approved, we’ll break ground.”
Wallace, who has been a buyer for four years with Randy’s Metal Recycling in Eau Claire, also worked with Louis Padnos Iron and Metal, founded in 1905, of which Padnos Sustainable Recycling, 30750 Edwards St., Dowagiac, is part.
“Most yards you see around are old parts yards. Our flow is going to be laid out differently. We’re actually putting up a building just to put auto bodies to drain the fluids. Randy’s owns a patent that processes a car in 10 minutes and trucks out recyclables within 24 hours.”
For Sustainable (formerly Franklin’s), “I used to run their Buchanan yard,” Wallace said. “We’re doing cardboard, office paper and e-scrap,” disassembling computers and turning them back into raw materials, which could be sent to a mill in Chicago or even to China.
Randy’s has a $7 million auto shredder in New Carlisle, Ind., and yards in South Bend and Cicero, Ill.

Family investment
“How this came about is my son-in-law is a very successful businessman in Chicago — he’s a dentist — and he has a home up here (at Diamond Lake). He wanted to look into this. He said, ‘I invest in the stock market, but I’d rather invest in my family,’ ” including Robert’s 4-month-old grandson.
“Cassopolis is untapped,” Wallace said.
“We’ve expanded to where we don’t just do car-crushing anymore. Randy’s has an aluminum shredder in Eau Claire, and we’ve done wire granulating for four years with three shifts. The people in Cassopolis, their excitement, just blew us away. Scrappers work hard and have integrity and make an honest living. It’s 1 percent you have to watch out for, so one thing we’re putting in our yard is, one of the first things you see stolen is catalytic converters for $40 to $140.
“We’re not going to buy them from Joe Public. We’re going to buy them from towers and dealers because we want to make the community proud of us. It’s been designed to not look like a scrapyard. Everybody over there has been so helpful.
“The first few months, there will probably be three to four of us until people learn we’re there,” Wallace said. “At Randy’s main yard, there are 32 (employees). We need to average 1,500 tons a month of steel and 80,000 pounds of non-ferrous to hire the personnel I need,” he said, “which I don’t think will be hard. Randy’s pulls from Benton Harbor, Berrien Springs and Watervliet. That’s why we chose Cassopolis, because we can pull from Edwardsburg and Marcellus.”
Wallace worked at Ameriwood for 15 years. He moved to North Dakota in 1995 and  pastored for a year. He was a supervisor during five years at National Copper Products. When the cavernous plant closed, “I bid on the scrap. Our guys were there eight months.”

Community participation
Wallace also was a reserve Dowagiac Police Department officer from 1986 to 1991 on Friday nights and Sunday nights and coached youth football and baseball.
“Right now, a lot of e-scrap is exported,” Wallace said. “Why can’t we do it here? So we’re in phase one of learning that trade. If that takes off like I think it will, we could have three divisions eventually on 10 acres.
“Two-and-a-half years ago, we didn’t have roll-off accounts, the big blue boxes for industrial scrap. We now have 107 accounts (12 in Dowagiac), two trucks, and we have to find another driver because it’s expanding.”
“It’s amazing what we can recycle,” he said, including harness wire, radiators, mercury switches and fluids.
“We have a machine that granulates copper and separates the copper from insulation and paper. We even found a buyer for the tiny bits of waste, so it doesn’t go into a landfill,” Wallace said.
“We have to get smarter” about recycling.

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