Interstate Metal Processing readies state-of-the-art facilities

By: 
Janine Davis
Staff Writer

New billboards along Interstate 70 point the way to Jonesburg’s newest industry star Interstate Metal Processing with an understated message: “We Buy All Metals.” In fact, the mound of scrap already in its “yard” makes a serious statement about its promise.

But what the advertising doesn’t say is that a year from now it will house a state-of-the-art hammer mill shredder that will shred 70 tons of metal — from cars to combines — in an hour. It can fully process a car in less than 90 seconds, sorting nonmetal materials to yield aluminum, steel, copper, cast and other metals of value for resale.

The facility, which opened in October, sits on 30 acres west of Certainteed with a 17,000-foot warehouse, offices, scales and loading dock along with acres of scrap yard. That’s only the start.

“We’re very glad to be in this community and are looking forward to growing here and employing more people,” says company president Lucas Kendall.

Kendall, who originally is from Washington, Mo., has deep experience in the metal business. He learned the ropes as a metal trader in Alton, Ill., and Houston, Texas, before moving back to Missouri in 2010 to start his own processing company, Scrap Mart, in Valley Park.

Kendall says he was looking to expand out from the Valley Park location, and Jonesburg offered an ideal situation, geographically centered for steel mills and other buyers and sellers and with easy access to I-70 and nearby rail.

He credits city and regional economic development leaders with helping lower barriers, including annexation of the facility to Jonesburg.

“Everyone’s been great to work with; they’re very pro-business,” Kendall notes.

He notes the company’s business plan calls for two immediate phases. Phase 1 is focusing on offices and getting all the infrastructure — from the building and water and sewer to environmental systems — in place. Phase 2 hits in mid-2020 when the hammer mill shredder is expected to arrive for installation and operation.

Currently, Interstate Metal Processing employees six people, but Kendall expects there to be 20 to 30 workers onboard once the big shredder is in place. At that point, he expects to be processing 5,000-8,000 tons of metal per month with hundreds of truckloads and rail shipments carrying product to broker or buyer destinations.

Service-oriented business

“We want to run a business that we ourselves would like to do business with,” says Kendall. “Facilities that are clean and safe, and people that are customer service-oriented make a difference.” 

He notes the Valley Park business has a loyal group of nuns who bring their scrap there because they find it to be a pleasant and easy experience.

Dealing with metals market is continuous change

Kendall has seen huge shifts in the metals market over time, from bull market demand and pricing before the recession to a slide as the economy went south. As housing and other markets have come back, a slow-down in international demand has led to volatility that causes business owners like Kendall to “bob and weave,” as he says.

Sheet iron, for example, has gone from $400-$500 a ton in ’06 and ’07 to $60 following the recession and back to $75 a ton these days.

China is a big swing factor today.

Kendall points out that 70-80 percent of steel is made with scrap. Most scrap is sold domestically, with companies on the coasts selling to China and other international markets. But China’s needs have been changing, he explains, as it faces new trade tariffs from the U.S. and as it increasingly opts to recycle from its own waste streams to fill the pipeline and to lower manufacturing emissions.

That means coastal scrap providers now have less of the China market and are eyeing more scrap domestically which puts more pressure on processors like Interstate Metal Processing.

That’s where Kendall’s experience and business agility come in. Knowing the ins and outs of the marketplace give him the perspective of a leader who understands how to weather all conditions. The opening of the Jonesburg facility is a solid bet on a commodity that will always be in demand.

‘A Mr. Rogers episode’

The jewel of Kendall’s initial multi-million-dollar investment will be the hammer mill shredder, which will take six months to build and weeks to install. He lights up when talking about the machine and its technology.

Imagine a 2000 Honda Accord sitting in place being eaten by a system of steel hammers as its metal parts are crushed and spit out and into a honeycombed grate. In seconds.

“It makes you feel like you’re in a Mr. Rogers episode,” Kendall says.

Kendall wants his company to be a good neighbor and resource, and underscores that he hopes to do a lot of business with local dealers as well as individuals, businesses and institutions.

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