Reclamation projects can make for nice stories, especially when they're successful. But it also is smart to ebb enthusiasm with a fair dose of caution when hearing about an idea that really sounds as if it has great promise.
That's because the rubber industry—like many others—is full of tales of the “next best thing” that never took off.
HTS Mixing L.L.C. and Northstar Elastomers L.L.C. both fall under the category of “reclamation,” but are at far different places in their journey toward success.
HTS has been in business in Union City, Tenn., for the past four years. Its owner is Ronnie Johnson, who has 35 years in the rubber and tire business and worked for Goodyear when it operated its tire factory in the city. Johnson formed the company after Goodyear closed the tire plant in Union City, and the mixer's work force of 115 includes a large number of employees from the Goodyear facility.
Until now, Johnson and his crew have kept to what they know, mixing rubber compounds for tire industry customers. Now it has decided with capacity to mix more than 500 million pounds of rubber a year, it is time to spread its wings and diversify to other rubber product applications.
There also is a good deal of support around it. The complex where it operates includes four separately owned businesses that all support each other, and help has been forthcoming from a state level economic development alliance. This type of infrastructure puts HTS in a good position to achieve its growth goals.
Northstar Elastomers in Minneapolis also can be considered a reclamation project of sorts. It is owned by Terry Korupp, who was a commercial industry real estate broker by trade.
He bought into a custom mixing business that dates back into the 1960s that went by the name Rubber Research Elastomerics. Korupp came into the picture four years ago, but in that time he endured several court battles with a former partner before he was able to begin business under the new name, Northstar Elastomers.
Korupp and three employees are looking to breathe new life into the operation. They are in a 20,000-sq.-ft. plant in Minneapolis that houses nine mixers that can handle batch sizes ranging from 500 pounds to 10,000 pounds
It is banking on custom polymer mixing, along with a couple of other technologies. One is the Tirecycle process, a technology that has been around in one form or another for years that claims to convert used tires and other rubber wastes back into usable raw materials.
Northstar Elastomers likely will have the rockier of the two roads to success. But who knows, with hard work and a little bit of luck, maybe theirs will be the “next best thing” that did take flight.