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Recla Metals was founded by Diann and Garry Fulks in 1974, according to Matthews Alvarez, one of the current co-owners. The company actually encompasses three different types of business now: recycling, a steel service center, and sales of rusty corrugated roofing material.

The company started as a recycling business, but then they started pulling usable metals from the scrap piles. Later, Recla Metals started buying new metal for resale.

Galvanized corrugated roofing material was one of the products Recla Metals bought and sold. One particular load arrived without its usual galvanized coating, and it rusted. Much to everyone’s surprise, customers loved the look, and wanted to buy it.

Alvarez said that the rusty metal has a “rustic look” that customers in the mountains of Colorado particularly like, but the product is sold all over the country. Alvarez noted that because the metal is thick, it’s actually more durable than typical shingled roofs, even with the rust.

Besides having three different types of business, Recla Metals has grown to have three different locations. They started in Clifton, which is near Grand Junction, then later opened facilities in Montrose and Durango. The main office is now in Montrose.

Meanwhile, Alvarez had been selling industrial machinery and became familiar with the scrap industry through his association with manufacturers. “One day I got fed up with New Orleans and moved to Colorado,” he said. “It’s important to live somewhere you like.”

After the move, Alvarez started working for a shredding company that purchased scrap metal from Recla Metals. He got to know the owners, and they got to know him. Finally, the couple started looking towards their eventual retirement, and wanted to bring on someone new who could take over the company. Alvarez seemed to be a good fit.

Alvarez started with the company about eight years ago, but not as an owner. He worked there for about 1 1/2 years because both he and the owners wanted to make sure he would be comfortable both with the company, and with the location.

Alavarez said he had never lived in a small town before, and he was interested in “a place like Montrose to raise a family.” At that time he and his wife had one child. Now he has three children and he’s even more enthusiastic about small-town mountain life as well as the availability of skiing and outdoor activities.

While there isn’t a lot of heavy industry in Colorado mountain towns to support a recycling business, Alavarez said, “every community needs one.” Recla Metals is looking into opening a new facility, but even in “green” communities, residents aren’t always enthusiastic about having a scrap yard in their back yard. On the other hand, if the scrap yard is nearby, people are more likely recycle, Alvarez said.

Alvarez said that the best part of the job is “meeting all of the different people in the scrap metal game.” Since the company is fairly small, Alvarez said that he gets to wear a lot of hats, which makes the job even more interesting.

Buying scrap has its challenges, Alvarez said. Coal mines, which once were good sources of scrap metal, are now shutting down. But selling material is also a challenge. When he first moved to Colorado he said “it blew me away that we could export so much from Montrose, Colorado,” which is nowhere near any coasts. Now, even though export is still possible, those markets aren’t buying as much and more scrap needs to be sold within the U.S.

Alvarez enjoys visiting industrial customers. “I’m fascinated by manufacturing and industry in general,” he said. Because of his job, he has a chance to see how things are made.

While Alvarez enjoys the beauty of his new hometown, he’s a bit more pragmatic about the industry he chose. “What we do, it’s not a glamorous business,” he said, “it’s dirty, but it’s needed.” And while being green is trendy these days, Alvarez said, “It’s one of the oldest trades in the world.”

Published in the May 2017 Edition of American Recycler News