LOCKPORT, N.Y.—RubberForm Recycled Products L.L.C. has invested $1.5 million into an expansion that will add two manufacturing production lines and up to about a dozen jobs.
The Lockport-based company outside of Buffalo manufactures recycled rubber and plastic products for the parking lot and road safety, road construction, home improvement, shipping, and marine products industries. It makes various industrial products, from rubber curbs and speed bumps to safety flooring, paver tiles, and composite tables and ramps.
The company received a hydropower allocation of 200 kilowatts added to its existing 100 kilowatt allocation from the New York Power Authority and a $250,000 Environmental Investment Program grant from New York State Empire State Development in 2012.
That was the first step of a plan that the company's owner hopes will lead to more state funding and greater growth opportunities for the manufacturer, whose products relate to safety, compliance or risk management.
It took time to get to this point where two additional manufacturing lines were added, said President Bill Robbins.
“We're reinventing how to use scrap material,” he said. “But it's a big challenge for us because we're competing with China and Canada (and they) have some inherent advantages.”
Those advantages are financial in nature. China offers lower costs, which speaks to the market given the cost competitive nature of the industry. Meanwhile companies in Canada receive federal subsidies to help offset costs to the client, allowing them to provide lower cost options in general compared to RubberForm.
So it makes it more imperative for RubberForm to find solutions to challenges that are keeping their customers “up at night,” Robbins said. That includes utilizing other recycled materials such as plastics and off-spec rubber materials. But creating these solutions and solving customer challenges require the company to be faster and better.
“We need to create technologies and formulations that allow us to have more applications for scrap tire rubber,” Robbins said.
That is where he feels RubberForm has its own advantage. It offers products that Robbins believes offer a far superior fit and finish with some unique selling propositions. Yet since the end products, such as speed bumps and wheel stops, can be highly niche in nature, it can require educating the client. “Often the products we make aren't something that a customer is going to ask for until they discover what the value is,” he said.
And given RubberForm's market, many of the new products the company develops actually derive from a customer asking for the product, Robbins said. That is how the roundabout curb product came about, he said.
The power that RubberForm uses for its products comes from nearby Niagara Falls, a hydro-plant rather than a coal or nuclear fuel source. Local residents can walk or bike to its in-town plant, which is located in a re-purposed 115-year old building. The company even has a mascot, Mr. T Crumb—the “T” stands for tire. He symbolizes the raw material used to create a compound, or the process RubberForm intends to perfect, for new products.