In his role as president of Rochester Iron & Metal Inc., Jason Grube has led the charge in the transition of the company from a small, local metal scrapyard to the large metal recycling facility that it is today.
“Jason’s most admirable personable attribute is vision encased in compassion,” says Linda Beckman of Rochester Iron & Metal. “Through periods of [the company’s] extended rapid growth, Jason’s compassion for his employees and their families has never been compromised.”
As the fourth generation to run the company, Grube’s focus remains on the Rochester Iron & Metal family and the next generation in the waste and recycling business—already growing the business from three employees 20 years ago to 98 today.
“He prides himself as a successful business owner on being a positive role model for the youth of our community, as a volunteer and through his various civic duties,” adds Beckman. “Additionally, each year Jason invites our local grade school children to come to the facility for Earth Day to take a tour, learn the principles of recycling and [learn] how they can each do their part to keep the environment healthy and thriving.”
After receiving a Waste360 40 Under 40 award earlier this year, Grube recently discussed how family led him into the industry at a young age and why the next generation of workers is key to the success of the waste and recycling industry.
Waste360: How did you begin your waste and recycling career?
Jason Grube: I’m actually a fourth generation, so I started young. I started working randomly around the yard at 13 or 14, and our company changed quite a bit in that timeframe. I really started full time in 1998. I was around it as a kid, but our family dynamic changed along with the company. I was one of three employees. I was the general laborer. It was me, my dad and another gentleman.
Waste360: Describe your role as president of Rochester Iron & Metal Inc.
Jason Grube: I oversee day-to-day operations. I deal with a lot of employee issues; everyone’s dealing with an employee crunch and that’s kind of our biggest hurdle right now. There’s just not enough people for the jobs that are available in our area. I deal with equipment issues, maintenance issues—kind of a jack of all trades. I’m pushing a lot of buttons. Anything that’s a problem when it comes to day-to-day operations, I deal with it in some manner, whether it be through a manager or on my own.
Waste360: What are some accomplishments in your career that you are most proud of?
Jason Grube: I think the story of our company is really interesting. In 1998, we were only three people and now we are 98 people. There have been a lot of good things that have happened. In 2012, we moved to a new location and added an auto shredder. We’re 17 people moving into a brand-new, 35-acre facility. Since 2012 to today, you can see the growth. In six years, we’ve grown considerably as a company, at least in personnel, equipment and size of company. That’s probably one of my proudest moments is getting to where we are as a family-owned company. My parents are still involved. They are 50 percent owners and I am the other 50 percent. Getting this company to where it is today is probably my most proud moment.
We took some of our auto shredder residue going to the landfill and saved about 4 percent more of our yearly volume from going to the landfill by turning that [residue] into recyclable goods. We took our waste stream that had about 5 percent of metallic still remaining, including copper wire, aluminum and stainless steel, and we extracted that. Now, we are currently left with 1 percent metallic to the landfill. That’s the best thing we could do as a company. The standard in our [scrap metal] industry isn’t that good. I think we kind of morphed into the waste industry because of this project. I think I’m the most proud of our growth and this project that we just completed last year.
Waste360: What are some exciting opportunities that you see opening up within the industry?
Jason Grube: For our industry, [Section 232 tariffs] is causing some heartache because of pricing and some of the things happening in our industry. It could be very interesting for us if something happens; this industry could run rampant because of the volume of material that is currently backed up and causing our market to drop. But if those gates open up again, we can freely trade with people and not at a disadvantage. And the growth for a company like ours, which is positioned pretty well by our size and the capacity that we have, can be pretty interesting moving forward. It could also go the other way if this thing continues on, and we don’t know what will happen. And we’re kind of in the middle because we’re not a large company, but we’re not a small one either. So, we don’t what will happen, truly. We hope everything works out in our favor.
Waste360: How are you working to decrease the company’s waste stream with the addition sorting equipment?
Jason Grube: We just implemented this equipment in April this year, and basically, we are the industry standard as far as recovery goes—at least from the auto shredder residue. You could probably get to zero percent but it is so cost prohibitive to do. The thing that’s happening now is that we are making these products that are sellable or have value, so the next thing is to add equipment to polish those things and make them better, so they are better suited to be recycled. To make our products better is the next venture for us. I think for us, as an industry, that’s taking the products that we are able to capture from shredders all over the country and turning them into something for the post-consumer.
Waste360: What advice do you have for someone who is looking to make a career for themselves in the scrap metal industry?
Jason Grube: It is a great industry—a pretty tight-knit community. Everyone seems to know or know of everyone. We are always looking for the young entrepreneur in this industry who can be held to a higher standard. I’ve done it. My parents have done it. This stuff travels pretty well. It’s extremely expensive to get involved in, especially from the ground floor, but I think there are opportunities out there for executive-type people in our industry. For a company our size, our biggest drawback or the thing that really hurt us in the small, rural community that we are in is that we don’t have the technical people we need to have.
What I am pushing my kids to do and all of the kids I talk to at the high school level to do is to go to tech school. Welder, electricians—anything that you can do with your hands—because what we find is that we have to take the people who know what they’re doing and have that background and train people up. I’m trying to push as many kids as I can into that arena just so we have that available moving forward. My fear is that there is no one teaching that anymore. I think it may be coming back, but it’s not coming back fast enough. I think education is important, but it is to what degree of education that you are going to get. You pay all of this money, but what are they really teaching? I just think it needs to change. I’m not knocking education. I just look at my kids and think about what our company will need in 15 years.
My whole motivation to do what we’ve done—going from three people to 98 people—or to grow the company and the things we are doing isn’t for me. It’s for my kids. My parents got us to a point where we could grow and become what I thought we wanted to be. And now, it’s where do we need to steer this thing, so they can step I if they choose to take it to the next level. That’s my motivation. That’s why I talk and interact with these younger kids because they are in that age group where you can shape them a little still. They don’t know everything yet.
Waste360: What activities or hobbies do you participate in outside of the office?
Jason Grube: It’s all kid based, for the most part. My middle son, who is 7 and has the engineering-type mind, has an overactive mind. He comes out to work with me some weeks and he’ll take small motors apart and try to figure out what bolts are what. I get to interact with him here. My oldest son, 10, keeps us busy with baseball, basketball and all the travel sports. He has a knack for baseball, so we spend every weekend somewhere else in the summer. I really enjoy it. We’re just starting to figure out what my daughter is into. She’s 3 and just goes with us to eat the concession stand food.