ROCK PORT, Mo.(Feb. 27, 2002)—The president of a Nebraska tire recycling firm whose business was gutted by fire is negotiating to buy a long-shuttered meatpacking plant just across the Missouri River.
“We have an option on the plant,” said Jim Gerking, president of EnTire Recycling Inc. of Nebraska City, Neb., speaking of the 100,000-sq.-ft. facility near Rock Port that Excel Corp. closed down in 1992. “The deal hasn't closed, but we're working on that.”
The Excel plant is about 20 miles from EnTire's current site, and Mr. Gerking said he expects all 16 employees at the Nebraska City site to report to work at Rock Port if the deal goes through. The Atchison County (Mo.) Development Corp.'s Internet site said the facility has a sale price of $1.5 million.
Jack Kelly, owner of the abandoned plant, confirmed he was negotiating with Mr. Gerking but deferred all further comment to him.
EnTire, which began operations in 1996, employs cryogenic grinding techniques to supply crumb rubber for a wide range of applications, including rubberized asphalt, athletic fields, playground surfacing, molded goods, running tracks, horse arenas and new tire manufacture. It also makes entrance/utility mats from recycled rubber and plastics.
Before the fire, the company processed the equivalent of 750,000 passenger tires annually. EnTire's FieldTurf rubber surfacing is in use at several Nebraska high schools and colleges, including the University of Nebraska where it was installed on its Memorial Stadium football field in 1999, and elsewhere across the country.
The fire began Jan. 23 and burned until Feb. 3. Two of four scrap rubber storage silos collapsed during the blaze, and Mr. Gerking had the other two pulled down after the fire was put out. The Environmental Protection Agency also ordered most of a building on the property to be pulled down, he said.
Thirteen firefighters were injured in the blaze, and authorities evacuated a 27-block area of Nebraska City near the EnTire site.
Despite the damage, EnTire continues to operate at least partially, according to Mr. Gerking. “Right now, we're still able to cover what we're doing,” he said. “We lost very little equipment, and none of our major processing machinery.”
Other crumb rubber suppliers have offered to help with any shortfall, he added, and the company has a separate site in Nebraska City, dedicated to extruding and injection molding, that wasn't affected by the fire.
Mr. Gerking said he planned to file shortly for the required permits from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. It takes anywhere from two to six months to obtain those permits, he added, but he hoped the time would be closer to two months.
“We will answer every question to their satisfaction,” he said. “We aren't your normal tire jockey, we're a processor.” He hopes that EnTire will be operating at the new site in 60 days.
Meanwhile, the exact cause of the fire in Nebraska City has yet to be determined, said Nebraska State Fire Marshal Ken Winters. “We're still waiting on the metallurgist's report to see if it confirms our suspicions,” he added.