When Steve Budd took a part-time job to earn a little cash while in school, little did he know that he'd be embarking on a whole new career path. But, nearly two decades later, it couldn't feel more "right" to the metals recycler.
"I was going to school for law enforcement when I got a job melting gold and silver," he remembered. "I had access to a metallurgical lab and thought I'd run some tests on catalytic converters. I knew they had precious metals, but I didn't know how much."
The converters tested high enough that Budd decided in 1993 to start his own business to recycle the metal from the converters. He initially worked out of his garage, but by 1997 Integrated Recycling Technology, Inc. was incorporated and housed in a Rogers, Minn. facility. What followed was steady growth and expansion - a move to Monticello, Minn. in 2001 and an expansion to another location in the same town in 2008. In 2009, Budd opened a 145,000-square-foot facility in Racine, Wis., outside Milwaukee. Most recently, he added a collection facility in Rogers, Minn. in 2011.
"It's been tremendous," admitted Budd. "I'm excited that the company has grown to this level. The precious metals industry is really a lot of fun. It's constantly busy, and always changing."
Integrated Recycling Technologies is now diversified. The company concentrates on three major areas of recycling: catalytic converters, nonferrous metals and electronics scrap recycling, which is called "e-cycling." Materials are bought from auto recyclers and individuals across the United States and beyond.
"We get some electronics shipped in from Hong Kong, India and Brazil, and we also buy scrap out of Canada" Budd acknowledged. "On the domestic side, we buy catalytic converters from all over the country, as well as scrap. If we're out at a yard, and it doesn't have enough to fill a truck with converters, we'll take rims, radiators, alternators, starters and AC compressors at the same time."
According to Budd, the price of materials is one of the biggest changes over the last 15 to 20 years. "A catalytic converter in 1997 went for $35 on the top end to $6 on the low end. Now you're looking at $400 or $500 on the top end for one catalytic converter to $15 on the low end."
Integrated Recycling Technologies has a metallurgical laboratory on-site and has developed a database that grades different types of catalytic converters by the amount of precious metals contained within.
"Foreign converters tend to have more precious metals in them," acknowledged Budd, who explained that the database groups converters by categories. "It takes the guesswork out of it. The recycler knows before we show up at his door exactly what we're going to pay for his converters. We can cut a check right on the spot."
Auto recyclers know they're getting a fair price too because of the information available on the Internet. "The Internet has really helped us in that way," Budd added.
Material keeps coming to Integrated Recycling Technologies, whether it's by the truck loads from within its dealer network or the 100 to 125 local customers who arrive daily to sell their scrap. This is all without a major advertising effort. Integrated Recycling Technologies has basically grown from word-of-mouth.
Budd credits the company's strong customer service and commitment to quality. "We've got a really great team of people. They show up. They care about the customer and about each other. They make it a pleasure to come to work. It makes a difference."
Owner: Steve Budd
Location: Monticello & Rogers, Minn., Racine, Wis.
Years In Business: 19
Number of Employees: 65