Metech seizes opportunity in computer salvage

Fifty-five million computers will end up in landfills all across America by the year 2005.

That translates to an acre of land piled 4,000 feet high with computers. For environmentalists, it’s a scary thought. For Metech, it’s an opportunity.

Businesses big and small, said James K. Gardner, marketing manager at Metech International in the Burrillville village of Mapleville, generally want to do the right thing. They want to dispose of their outdated or damaged computers, computer components and electronic components properly. They want their office buildings to be free from clutter and they want to protect the environment. In helping companies to make that all happen, Metech is seeing its business soar.

“It can’t all go to the landfill much longer,” said Gardner.

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Metech, founded in 1968, provides precious metal sampling recovery services to a wide range of industries. Metech employs 104 people in Rhode Island, where most of its corporate offices are located. The company has similar operations in Indiana and California.

In 1983, it was purchased by Boliden AB, a major copper smelter and $1 billion Swedish corporation. In 1988, the company was again purchased, this time by Trelleborg AB, a $2 billion Swedish corporation.

In 1997, Metech introduced an ambitious program called “Accountable Resource Management (ARM).” The program is designed to provide the last steps in a true “cradle-to-grave” accounting of manufacturing materials. ARM is a comprehensive package that provides clients with assurance that their manufacturing byproducts, obsolete inventory, and other residual materials are handled using proven methods.

According to Metech, the ARM program “mitigates your risk of possible environmental damage and subsequent claims, while maximizing your return on the value recovered from these materials, many of which contain constituents that are considered hazardous waste.”

Last year alone, Metech processed more than 12 million pounds of electronics in Rhode Island and at its other plants, generating between $60 to $80 million in sales. Gardner is confident that that business will continue to grow.

In pursuing aggressive expansion plans, Metech has worked closely with the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation. The RIEDC has provided the company with assistance in applying for an Industrial Development Bond.

Also, Metech took part in a Trade Mission to Mexico earlier this year that was organized by the RIEDC.

“We were surprised by the resources they offered companies that are already situated in Rhode Island,” Gardner said. “I am amazed that more companies don’t take advantage of that.”

John Swen, director of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, said that assisting existing companies like Metech is critical to the RIEDC’s success.

“If you look at where our resources go — the vast majority of them go to companies like that,” Swen said. “Precisely because they are so critical. You can get a lot of leverage from small companies. That’s where the job creation comes from. That’s true nationally and locally.”

It appears that Metech is a success story that the RIEDC need not worry about losing. Though it has other locations and is owned by a Swedish parent, Metech is happy with life in Mapleville.

“We have labor here in Rhode Island that has been here a long time,” Gardner said. “We could potentially lose that if we moved. The quality of life is nice here. It’s a pleasant place to live.”

It also makes strict business sense, Gardner said. “We’ve been in business a long time,” he said. “We have a high level of credibility with our customer base. We have a very open relationship with our clients. And we’ve invested a lot of money in environmental equipment to help in the workplace. A lot of our new equipment was designed with ergonomics in mind.”

And as for the companies that continue to throw electronic waste behind their building, in the Dumpster?

“I think that will change,” said Gardner. “We’re trying to educate people.”

  • The Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (RIEDC) provided Metech assistance with applying for an Industrial Development Bond.
  • In May 1998, Metech participated in a Trade Mission to Mexico organized by RIEDC. Metech met with various companies in Mexico and generated numerous sales leads. The company plans to participate in future Trade Missions.
  • RIEDC is providing Metech with assistance on effectively utilizing the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Gold Key Program for developing business in foreign countries.
  • RIEDC assisted Metech with applying for a training grant through RIEDC and the Human Resource Investment Council. The company received $17,600 for training employees at their Burrillville facility.
  • Metech employees have participated in RIEDC programs relating to conducting business in other NAFTA countries and contracting with the Department of Defense.

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