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Mill Creek Metals turns attention to recycled materials

May 1, 2014 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

High demand driving up price of metals

Mill Creek Metals is under new management after two acquisitions that were spurred by booming recycled metals markets. The company buys recycleable metals, including copper, aluminum, steel and iron.

Three years ago, an Idaho company called Mill Creek Metals bought the yard from a local owner, and about one year ago Utah metal recycler Valley Recycling acquired Mill Creek, including the Riverton yard.

Tim Bales started as the yard manager about two weeks ago, and said the yard's focus has turned away from selling auto parts and focuses on buying recycleable metals. Valley Recycling has about eight locations, he said, and the size is a benefit to local scrappers.

"All the metal that gets shipped out of Wyoming goes to Utah," he said. "A lot of people are the middlemen, and they can't afford to give as much as we can because we ship it directly."

Demand from countries such as Turkey, Japan and South Korea has driven up the price of scrap metal, he said.

"That trickles down to people like us," Bales said.

Valley Recycling has been in business for about 90 years, he said, but the recent boom led it to acquire more facilities, including the one in Riverton.

"That's why these folks bought this company. They saw the potential in Wyoming," Bales said. "We needed a company that was willing to give a little more for the metal and get it out a little faster."

Since taking over managing the Riverton yard, Bales has sought to organize the facility, an important consideration in recycled metals. In the past, the yard shipped metals to Valley's Utah locations all mixed together, he said. Workers in Utah had to sort them out.

Bales, drawing on 30 years of experience from running his own scrap business, is working to have the metals sorted at the Riverton yard.

"They can just ship it right to their buyers," he said.

Four people work at Mill Creek in Riverton, and Bales said finding good employees has been difficult, but the crew is better under the new ownership.

"We have more reliable help up here, more knowledgeable staff," he said.

Simple habits can be good for business, Bales said. For a manager or business owner, opening the business on time, returning phone calls, fair dealing and being friendly brings customers back, he said.

"If I go into another business, and they have a scowl and can't stand to help you, I probably won't come back," he said. "For the most part there's no sense in being angry with your customer."

Mill Creek Metals accepts scrap copper in forms that include bare metal, insulated wire, alternators and electric motors. It also takes various forms of aluminum, steel, iron and vehicles for scrap.

The scrap yard has services away from its location as well. It will also pick up a vehicle for scrap and provides roll off containers for businesses to keep on site and fill with scrap. Mill Creek still pays for vehicles and scrap collected in those ways.

"We also do 'out jobs,' like if a farmer or rancher has a bunch of metal they want cleaned up, we have all the equipment to go out, clean it up, haul it in," Bales said. "We still buy it from them too."

Bales has a few ideas for developing the business. Mill Creek is considering offering an Earth Day special next year during which it would offer higher prices for metals for about two days around the holiday, celebrated this year on April 22. Opening a Lander location is another possibility, he said, so people in the Lander area would not have to drive as far.

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