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Each week, The Columbian offers a brief snapshot of an interesting Clark County business. Send ideas to Mary Ricks: firstname.lastname@example.org; fax 360-735-4598; phone 360-735-4550.
Business name: Vancouver Plastics, LLC
Owners: Matt Miles and Dan St. John
Address: 2600 N.E. Andresen Road, Suite 400
What the business does: Vancouver Plastics recycles plastic scrap material from manufacturers and waste streams. The company grinds and pulverizes material for reprocessing by companies that will extrude or remold it into new products. Its customers get a consistent, reliable source of material at a reduced cost.
The company started with three people and focused on one niche material and market. It took the owners several months to learn what customers wanted and how to best produce it in a form to maximize their effectiveness. This allows them to be more competitive on quoting jobs, helps remove material from landfills and keeps them in business.
Steps to build the business: Miles said he and St. John are looking at other materials and markets. They have received excellent reviews on tests by potential new customers of several new recycled material types. They have established relations with individuals who are well versed in plastics and recycling, who have helped them define new processes and markets.
Greatest challenge: Miles said the company's first challenge, as a new small business, was finding enough scrap material to reprocess. It has found some consistent and reliable sources for material but is always looking for new ones. The second challenge was determining what the customers wanted and how to produce it. This process took more than several months to get right. The next challenge is finding new types of material to recycle and then finding the customers to use it.
Favorite part of the job: Miles enjoys talking with and meeting new people in the industry and learning about their businesses and how they process material. Problem-solving is always entertaining and seems to be daily exercise. It is, he says, always a roller-coaster ride when you're a small company. As the day goes, so do the emotions.
What's ahead in the next six to eight months: Miles said they have joined recycling organizations and have signed up with multiple websites to learn about their markets and other potential markets. One of the company's goals is to keep most or all material that can be recycled in North America, rather than exporting it for conversion and re-use in another country, "to help improve this economy."
Owner's business history: Miles started at Waste Technologies Inc. in 2005 as a production worker. He was promoted to production manager in 2007 in charge of scheduling 50 employees and maintaining all of the equipment.
St. John has been in manufacturing for more than 30 years. He has been CEO/general manager of several companies. He also ran several successful consulting teams that were helping make companies more profitable and efficient.
In mid-2011, the two men purchased equipment from Waste Technologies and started Vancouver Plastics.
Employees: Owners plus three employees.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.