ARCHIVED  May 20, 2011

Scrap metal pulls CI&M through recession

FORT COLLINS – It’s no secret that there’s money to be made in scrap metal. But is it enough to pull a business through the Great Recession?

For Kent Garvin, owner of Colorado Iron & Metal in Fort Collins, the answer is a resounding yes.

“Our overall sales doubled in 2010,” he said. “We are back to where we were in 2008.”

In dollars, that would be a jump to $8.9 million dollars in gross revenue in 2010, up from $4.3 million in 2009. That’s enough change to qualify him for the No. 6 spot on the Northern Colorado Business Report’s 2011 Mercury 100.

Garvin, originally from Minnesota where he owned a successful towing and automotive repair business, relocated to Fort Collins in the early 1990s because, quite simply, he fell in love with the community during multiple vacations.

He spent two and a half years shopping for a new business when one within his budget range became available. That business was Nelson Metals.

“I discovered fairly quickly that most people buy businesses they know something about,” Garvin said, although he knew nothing about the metals business. “It wasn’t for the meek of heart. I paid cash for the business and took it over sight unseen, and I had to teach myself the steel business very fast.”

He renamed the business Colorado Iron & metal.

“To our great fortune, the business was always profitable from the get-go,” Garvin said. “But we didn’t start to feel our stride until it took off in early 2001 to 2005.”

The company was doing $250,000 in sales when he took it over in 1996 and in 2008 the company was grossing $10 million when the economy took a tumble.

Although the construction sector – one of the largest customers for fabrication services provided by Colorado Iron & Metal – is quiet as a result of the recession, it hasn’t stopped the company from growing.

“Sales in 2010 were up 34 percent from ’09,” Garvin said. “Which means ’09 was a complete disaster.”

Everything metal

The business makes everything from railings to staircases to large steel metal assemblies. “We have a wide range of capabilities, including precision cutting with waterjets and plasma burn tables.”

But thank goodness for scrap metal – everything from rusty buckets to forklifts – that the public brings to recycle.

“The metal has always been out there, accumulating for generations, but until the price got to a certain place (currently an average of $180 per ton), the time and effort to scour ditches, old farmsteads and even Craigslist wasn’t worth the effort,” Garvin said of the metal scrappers, many of whom make a good living doing so. “The biggest surprise is how one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. We don’t recycle all the metals we get. Some are resold and reused. Some things get turned over to others who can use it – miscellaneous iron, furniture, steel desks and dividers, even a forklift that we’ve repaired and resold.

“We’re definitely part of the green movement. We’ve diverted 18,000 tons of scrap metal out of the solid waste stream in Fort Collins,” he added.

Garvin sells the metal to dealers in Denver who run it through shredders.

Other changes in the business since 1995? In the beginning it was just Garvin and one employee. Today he employs 32 people in both the scrap metal and fabrication divisions, which he hopes to consolidate at the 6.5-acre Buckingham location later this year. He also plans to expand the metal scrap end of the business into additional communities, potentially Sterling, Cheyenne and Laramie. “We’re always eyeing expansion.”

And why not? After all, said Garvin, “I love what I do.”

FORT COLLINS – It’s no secret that there’s money to be made in scrap metal. But is it enough to pull a business through the Great Recession?

For Kent Garvin, owner of Colorado Iron & Metal in Fort Collins, the answer is a resounding yes.

“Our overall sales doubled in 2010,” he said. “We are back to where we were in 2008.”

In dollars, that would be a jump to $8.9 million dollars in gross revenue in 2010, up from $4.3 million in 2009. That’s enough change to qualify him for the No. 6 spot on the Northern…

Related Content