The Midwest PGM team is lessening the load in landfills one scrap of aluminum, metal, copper and brass at a time. By paying the public for recyclable items and purchasing parts from area car dealerships, Midwest PGM has diverted 75 to 80 tons monthly from landfills, said owner Rich Thiel, who runs the company with his business partner, Jorge Rangel.
The two launched the business in April 2008 after working together at Toyota as mechanics and seeing the need.
“I’ve been scrapping on a personal basis for about as long as I’ve been a mechanic (20 years). We started before we had our building here as I have a pole barn at my house and we stored stuff there,” Thiel said. “We started by buying automotive core parts from dealerships and finding a core place that would rebuild them and sell them at an after-market auto store. As time went on, we started picking up other stuff.”
“We started getting more stuff and getting bigger and bigger,” Rangel added. “That’s when we decided we needed to open to the public.”
The staff of four is now looking forward to expanding to a building next to its current location at 10501 – 8 W. 133rd Ave. in Cedar Lake. The transition is expected to occur in April of this year.
With the additional space, they plan on accepting paper and adding back in plastics. They intend on purchasing plastics again as the recycling center/scrap yard was the first in the area to pay for the No. 1 variety. The new building in Lake County will also allow for the addition of a drive-on scale.
“A drive-on scale offers more convenience for customers by cutting the amount of time the process takes,” Thiel said. “With the new building, we are expecting more than 3 percent growth and the need for additional staff.”
Thiel’s research led him to the SBDC in 2008 and the agency’s questionnaire that jump-started the thought process of what it takes to own a small business.
“When I started looking on the Internet as far as how to start your business, I found the SBDC site, which detailed the procedures of starting a business,” Thiel said. “The small business questionnaire asks you: What about financing? So what are you going to do the two years you aren’t making money?”
With Thiel and Rangel remaining at Toyota, they had a financial plan in place and moved forward with the process of launching a business, including retaining a lawyer and becoming incorporated. Business Advisor Cindy Bertram helped with basics by connecting Thiel and Rangel to resources to create Midwest PGM’s business plan and to assist with a grant application.
The company was awarded the Indiana Start Up Grant for an Environmental Recycling Company. The team used the funds to purchase equipment, including trailers, skid loaders, trucks and a small baler. When they decided to move into a building and open to the public, Bertram assisted with location data and research and Business Advisor Garry Bradley joined the effort when financial advice was needed.
“Garry helped us put our financial packet together before we applied for our bank loan for our new building. He outlined what were key components to include for our best shot at approval,” Thiel said.
“I urge other small businesses, whether they are just starting up or existing and going through difficult times, to seek assistance from the SBDC,” he added. “The advisors have the knowledge and resources to help you find answers.”
Despite the challenges of small business ownership, Thiel and Rangel look forward to growth and what the future holds. While Thiel remains at Toyota, Rangel now is at Midwest PGM full-time.
“Jorge and I both see why a lot of businesses fail. I have a different outlook on it now. It’s not just because it could have been a lack of planning, but it could have been from frustration, too,” Thiel said. “Things are going good and all of a sudden you hit a wall, and we have hit several of them.”
“And, it’s like you want to close the doors and say ‘I am done,’” Rangel added. “But we won’t because we know this is a good business and it keeps growing.”
“Determination keeps us going and knowing how to handle certain situations. There always has to be a Plan B, C, possibly D,” Thiel said. “We don’t react too quickly if something doesn’t go right. There doesn’t always have to be an answer right then.”
For more information on Midwest PGM: www.midwestpgm.com.