A Closer Look E-mail the author

Courtney Car Crushing
Dave Johnson • 641-682-6106

Courtney Car Crushing and Scrap was founded in 1972, in Ottumwa, Iowa, when Dave Johnson’s father made a choice – get a loan for some equipment to start his own business, or take a job at John Deere. “He decided to go out on his own,” Johnson said.

Johnson joined the company in 1993, when he decided that he needed to do something better than deliver pizzas. He started as a laborer, and spent a lot of time with a cutting torch, working his way up to running the machines. Today, he is the general manager, while his wife, Kim, works in the office, answers phones, and does bookkeeping.

Even though Johnson is running the company and taking care of customer service, he still does hands-on work. “It’s actually more relaxing to be in a machine, working,” he said. His favorite piece of machinery to run is the Al-Jon baler.

The company does mobile crushing for customers and also buys cars and other scrap on-site. To make things more “user-friendly” for the customers who deliver, “we’re looking to do some expansion.” Johnson said. A new 70-foot scale and an expansion of the yard and re-routing of the traffic flow will make it easier to get customers in and out quickly. A new baler is also on order.

These improvements are on top of the growth the company has already seen, increasing the number of industrial accounts and adding to the materials they accept. “We added non-ferrous and batteries in the past eight years,” Johnson said.

Johnson said his scrap is “half peddler and half industrial, and we try to treat everyone the same – a big corporation or a guy pedaling a bicycle – they’re all the same to us.” When scrap is sold, he said, “I like doing business face-to-face, like with a handshake.”

The planned expansion isn’t as important to Johnson as the fact that he’s running a family business. Even though his father is spending less time at the company, “he still comes around,” Johnson said. “He’s still very much involved in the business. We bounce ideas off of each other.”

Unlike some families that work together, Johnson said that this relationship doesn’t have a lot of conflict. “We’ve always been able to talk to each other, no matter what the subject – and stay calm.”

When the company was first founded, there weren’t any other car crushers in the area. Even when other crushing companies opened up, the competition wasn’t like it is now. “It seems like a cutthroat business as far as competition with other scrap companies,” Johnson said, “where before everybody left the others alone. It’s gotten fierce, but there’s plenty of scrap for everybody.”

While competition has increased, the downturn in the markets has made it harder to sell material, and as a result the company recently had to downsize. Today, there are eight employees. “I had to lay off 12 recently,” Johnson said. “That was one of the toughest things I ever did. I don’t know if they’re all going to come back – some of them have already found work.”

The biggest challenge, Johnson said, is “trying to stay ahead of the game. Trying to move stuff and being competitive with our competitors.” The flipside of that is that “there’s always something different – you have to stay on your toes. You keep evaluating.”

Keeping customers satisfied is one of Johnson’s priorities. “We’ll do anything we can to help. We give honesty and good service. We ask, ‘how can I help you?’” Helping also includes being involved in the community. “I’m involved in Little League Baseball,” Johnson said. The company donates metal for Little League projects and fundraising whenever possible.