03/23/10 - Indianapolis Star Article

Company's move starts new era: Metal recycler focuses on energy efficiency, growth at new site
by Bruce C. Smith

When a young Jacob Solotken was recycling paper, cardboard and rags, he probably couldn’t have imagined the size of the company that still bears his name nearly 100 years later.

This month, J. Solotken and Co. has moved operation to a 140,000-square-foot facility on the city’s Eastside.

The building, with 35 employees and state-of-the-industry equipment for recycling valuable scrap metals, is at 6701 English Ave. in a former metal fabricating facility of the Frank E. Irish Co.

The family-owned Solotken spent about $4.5 million to acquire and refit the building to sort and compact nonferrous metals, particularly copper, aluminum, nickel, brass, bronze, lead and zinc.

The company moved after 74 years at 101 S. Harding St. in an again industrial corridor near Downtown, where city planners envision redevelopment with condominiums and loft apartments.

“I’d been thinking about moving for 30 years, but with the market conditions (at record highs for resale of metals), this finally was a good time,” said Joseph M. Alpert, the company’s president, owner and great-grandson of Solotken.

The benchmark sale price of cooper had been high for several years and peaked at $4 a pound in July 2008, but then crashed to $1.29 a pound in December as the recession hit. With the recession holding on and scrap metals in short supply, the prices have climbed, with copper back up near $3.55 a pound.

The privately owned Solotken doesn’t disclose Financials except that the company handles more than 10,000 tons of metals a year.

There are about 2,000 companies I the country recycling all kinds of materials from paper and plastic to metals, including 1.8 million metric tons of copper in 2008, according to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, a national trade association.

Bruce Savage of the Washington-based trade group said the trend of corporate buyouts of family-owned business has slowed since the market prices became volatile.

Alpert said J. Solotken has prospered “with hard work and good luck.”  He said the old Harding Street building is still used for storing some old stock-piles of metals to be sold, but it should be empty and listed for sale by late this year.  

Vice President Brian Nachlis, a son-in-law in the current generation, said new facility includes energy-saving and environmentally friendly features that wouldn’t have been possible at the old Harding Street site.
“We took out the heating system in the new building that wasn’t working so well and replaced it with radiant heaters over the work areas.  We didn’t think there was any reason to heat the whole place all the way up to the 40-foot ceilings,” he said.

Light fixtures in the building have been replaced with energy efficient models. The floor is high-strength concrete at least six inches thick and all of the work is contained indoors. Some floors in the old Harding Street building were dirt. The new compactor, which cost several hundred thousand dollars, can smash the scraps of metal into bales weighing 2,000 to 5,000 pounds each. The bales then are sent to mills and foundries to be melted.
“We’ve gone from packaging scrap 500 pounds at a time and tying it together by hand to compacting briquettes of 50 pounds of copper bales of 2,000 pound,” Nachlis said.