PORT MANATEE -- Anyone who has thrown out an old dryer or dishwasher in Manatee County in the last few months probably could have waved goodbye to the remains of these venerable appliances last week as they shipped out for Mexico.
On Thursday, about 25,000 tons of shredded scrap and other metals left Port Manatee on a freighter bound for the port at Veracruz aboard the Panama-flagged freighter Sen Treasure. It was the first of an expected monthly shipment from a scrap metal processor that opened for business near the port in May.
Port Manatee Scrap Metal, a local subsidiary of family owned Grimmel Industries, has been in the works since late 2011 when company owners Gary and Betty Grimmel paid $3.5 million for 25 acres on Harlee Road with more than 127,000 square feet of warehouse space adjacent to the port. In May, the business started up a multimillion dollar, three-story-high metal shredder and sorter Gary Grimmel spent a year building from components.
It is the fourth shredder the company has put into service between its processing locations in Maine, Georgia, upstate New York and Manatee County. Far from where the company started in the Northeast, the new Grimmel location plugs into a Suncoast scrap metal market that lacked shredding, processing and shipping services outside of Tampa.
Betty Grimmel said with Florida ranked as the fourth-most populous state in the nation, she and her husband knew their company
could draw on a good metal supply between Pinellas County and Fort Myers and as far east as Orlando. Port Manatee Scrap Metal's primary metal source at present is household appliances. Eventually, the company will start taking in a volume of automobiles.
"There's always a lot of scrap metal here," Grimmel said.
The Grimmels, who have 50 employees in their multi-state business, know what a lot of scrap metal looks like. They've processed and shipped more than 10 million tons of it over the past 43 years, with about 90 percent of it going to Turkey. The new Port Manatee location opens the Mexico market for the company.
Five of the Grimmel Industries' employees work at Port Manatee Scrap Metal. Each day, they take in truckloads of scrap, shredding and separating as it arrives. Much of it can be stored in the onsite warehouses or in huge outdoor piles until a ship arrives in port for loading.
Port officials welcome the new business. Carlos Buqueras, the port's executive director, said the regular scrap shipments could translate to as much as $500,000 in income a year for the port. Grimmel expects to charter as many as 18 freighters a year out of the port.
"This company is prepared to maintain a flow of exports continuously," Buqueras said. "This will also solidify ties with Veracruz."
Grimmel did not disclose information about her company's revenues. But, during August, the price paid for the type of steel scrap processed by the company was about $360 per ton on the U.S. market, according to global scrap pricing website Scrap Register.
A location next to Port Manatee and a stone's throw from State Road 41 is strategic for Port Manatee Scrap Metal. It is a convenient drive for area scrap yards looking to sell metal for processing. From the shredder, waterfront loading is only about a mile away. At its other facilities, Grimmel ships directly out of established ports or from docks it owns.
One new Port Manatee Scrap Metal customer is Suncoast Metals in Sarasota. Company vice president Mike Allen said having a shredder at Port Manatee makes for shorter hauls for Suncoast, which is a direct buyer of scrap from the public. Previously, the nearest shredding facility was in Tampa.
"It's nice that there's an outlet in the Bradenton area close to Sarasota," Allen said. "It's more profitable for our company because of their close proximity."
Trademark Metals Recycling of Tampa is the biggest player in the Florida scrap market with more than 30 locations. The publicly traded company, which is owned by the David J. Joseph Co. in Cincinnati, got even bigger in April when it purchased scrap processor One Steel and its shredding facility in Tampa.
Positioned as one of the larger family owned scrap processors in the nation, the Grimmels will be in direct competition with Trademark. Fortunately, scrap is a big industry. According to the Washington, D.C.-based Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, the United States recycles about 143 million tons of scrap metal annually. The industry is worth more than $90 billion a year and supports about 46,000 jobs.
Betty Grimmel said one major motivation for opening the Port Manatee location is she and her husband have lived in Pinellas County for most of the past 10 years. The facility will also be home base for the couple's son, Toby, who will run the day-to-day operation.
The scrap business promises to be busy for the Grimmels and the port. Although prices have fluctuated since the then-teen newlywed couple hauled their first flattened scrap car in 1971, foreign nations have long had an appetite for U.S. scrap. Much of the ferrous scrap that goes to Turkey comes back to the United States as reinforcement rods for construction, a commodity Port Manatee handles in quantity.
Grimmel said the scrap her company sends to Mexico is likely headed toward the nation's growing auto manufacturing industry.
Grimmel also ships no-ferrous metals including brass, copper and aluminum to India and the Far East.
For the time being, Port Manatee Scrap Metal will only deal with scrapyards and commercial scrap operations such as Suncoast Metals. It may buy scrap from individuals in the future.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.