U.S. Rubber Recycling Inc., a business that converts used truck tyres into rubber flooring and sound-reducing underlay, boosted its sales by 40 per cent in 2020. The company plans to hire another 20 workers this year and is looking for a bigger manufacturing space of 100,000 to 150,000 square feet.
Pandemic Boost for US Rubber Recycling
When a company boosts sales by 40 per cent, diverts waste from landfills and helps ex-felons rebuild their lives by putting them to work, it must be doing something right.
CEO Jeff Baldassari attributes the company’s 2020 sales increase to a few factors:
“People changed their buying behaviour in 2020 because of the virus,” he said. “They weren’t going to stores as much, but online sales went up. We’ve had a long-time partnership with Rubber Flooring, which sells rubber mats and flooring, and their sales exploded because of online buying.”
That alone would have put the company well ahead of its 2019 performance. But U.S. Rubber also inked a deal with Home Depot.
“It usually takes a business nine months to get onboard with Home Depot, but we did it in a week,” he said. “Their online purchasing has accelerated quickly, and they needed flooring.”
With fitness centres and gyms closed during much of the pandemic, Home Depot customers were clamouring for rubber flooring to outfit home gyms in their basements, garages and bedrooms, Baldassari said.
And as COVID-19 restrictions continue to ease, fitness centres and gyms are reopening with some upgrading their facilities, so demand for rubber flooring is higher than ever.
“We doubled our workforce since April of 2019,” Baldassari said. “Now we have 62 people in the company, including about 50 who work in the factory. The way we are growing, I expect to add 20 more jobs this year.”
Needless to say, all of that momentum has fuelled some growing pains.
U.S. Rubber’s Colton facility is 50,000 square feet, but the company is looking for a bigger space with 100,000 to 150,000 square feet.
The factor that sets U.S. Rubber apart from its competitors is “the people part,” according to Baldassari.
“There’s a lot of competition for employees right now and we’ve hired ex-felons to help us grow our workforce,” he said. “Most employers won’t even talk to them once they’ve checked that box, but some of them have incredible skills.”
Because labour shortages abound, U.S. Rubber Recycling’s Bounce Back second chance hiring programme gives it a competitive advantage, according to Baldassari. About 50 per cent of the company’s current workforce is composed of formerly incarcerated people.
Carlos Arceo, who served nearly 10 years in prison for drug trafficking, is a second-shift supervisor.
“I began working with U.S. Rubber in April 2019,” he said. “I started at the very bottom making underlay. But I learned how to operate the machinery pretty quickly and I became a supervisor in October. I’m proud of myself … this is my first job ever.”
The company’s screening process for hiring ex-felons involves a psychologist, who uses a 2 1/2-page questionnaire to gauge their mental maturity and mindset.
“We don’t want to have turnover,” Baldassari said. “If we give them some guidance to make better choices, they are less apt to go down the wrong path again.”
Finally, there is the environmental component.
U.S. Rubber diverted more than 9 million pounds of post-consumer tyre rubber from local landfills in 2020 alone, and the company gets 70 per cent of its source material from within 15 miles of the factory, giving it a low-carbon supply chain.
Source: Orange County Register