Miller Recycling rides green wave, expands operation

Miller Recycling LLC is picking up what other companies have left behind, even going so far as to recycle a Newport landmark.

The Cocke County company has watched its business grow during the recession as industrial customers look to shed costs by cutting back on waste removal.

As a result, Miller Recycling has acquired a vacant business site near downtown Newport, where it is expanding an operation that collects plastics, cardboard, metal and wood products before shipping them to customers – both foreign and domestic – for reuse.

The company recently purchased a 105,000-square-foot former auto parts plant operated by Freudenberg NOK/Corteco/Detroit Gasket at 131 Verner Ave. It is relocating from leased space at 810 Thinwood Drive in Newport, according to Vice President and General Manager Tim Miller.

Miller also said the purchased property, which has been vacant about five years and is on seven acres, allows for future expansion.

Commercial real estate firm NAI Knoxville brokered the deal. Terms were not disclosed.

Miller said growth of the company, founded in 2001, mirrors the recycling industry as a whole.

“Cutting landfill costs is one of the best ways a company can cut costs,” he said. “We’re able to save them, on average, 75 percent of what would go into a landfill.”

Miller Recycling is distinctly local, a son-and-pop operation that is headed by father Dalas Miller, who spent a career in the plastics industry before opening the company in a 10,000-square-foot building. In 2006, the company moved into a 30,000-square-foot plant. It’s also a family affair, with wife and mother Carol Miller serving as office manager. Tim Miller worked in the plastics industry in Illinois before joining the family business in 2010.

By recruiting customers like ConAgra and TRW, Miller Recycling also has expanded its work force to 15. It contracts with Parks Trucking in Newport to pick up the recyclables throughout East Tennessee and haul them to Newport, where Miller employees sort, grind and bail the waste products before shipping them to end users.

According to Tim Miller, the company handles more than 1.2 million tons a year. Emerging markets like China have created large demand for recycled goods, and Miller said much of the company’s recyclables are shipped via container to that country.

“We do have quite a bit of export business, but domestic buyers tend to pay more for our product,” Miller said, explaining that shipping costs can add quite a bit to exported material.

As the economic downturn continues to take its toll on businesses, Cocke County is glad to share in Miller Recycling’s success.

“They’ve been in the area a good while and they’ve been looking for an opportunity to grow,” said Donald Hurst, president of the Cocke County Partnership. “Obviously, with the economy in the condition it’s in, we’re very pleased with any economic development we can get in the community.”

Townsend Collins of NAI Knoxville, who put the property acquisition together with co-workers John Dempster and James Roberson, said the building is in the right location with the right layout to accommodate Miller’s operation. Tim Miller agrees, saying the company already is planning for future expansion as they move into the new building.

Miller declined to disclose his family’s investment in the operation, but said “it’s 100 percent.”

“Everything we’ve got we’ve put into this,” he said, noting that the only debt Miller Recycling has is for the new building.


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