Where the Rubber Meets The Road Again

Jul 2, 2020 | News

ECONOMY – New ‘green’ manufacturer eyeing late August start-up.

There’s a real green streak running through a new factory that’s ready to start rolling out product in August.

Bill and Deborah Robbins, the brother-and-sister team founding RubberForm Recycled Products on Michigan Street, are making environmental consciousness their business. They’ll be taking rubber shredded from old tires at High Tread International and turning it into sign bases, parking lot wheel stops, speed bumps, curbing and, potentially, household and automotive products.

Even the RubberForm presses are recycled.

“We are environmentally in tune to what’s going on,” Deborah Robbins said. “Now, with this business, we can help in a bigger way.”

RubberForm is the third business Bill Robbins has owned. They come from decidedly non-manufacturing backgrounds, Bill Robbins marketing & sales and Deborah Robbins health care and public policy, but both clearly have a social interest in environment — and the wherewithal to parley it into enterprise.

“I thought this was a great opportunity to do something for our kids down the road,” Bill Robbins said.

The more than $1 million startup cost is aided partly by a $225,000 low-interest loan for machinery from Greater Lock- port Development Corp. and a low-cost power allocation from New York Power Authority.

U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds was at RubberForm on Friday to meet with the Robbinses and note the role of the Governor’s Office of Small Cities in aiding startup. The GLDC got the Small Cities grant that’s funding the loan.

“Solid, high-quality manufacturing jobs here in Lockport …will provide a boost to our area’s economy,” Reynolds said. “The potential of this business is unlimited.”

Bill Robbins pulled the congressman aside at one point to put a bug in his ear about rules for federal construction projects and the ways recycling could benefit the American economy.

Paying attention to political ways of “selling” environmentalism will be a job for both partners, they said. In promotional materials, the company catchline is: “Where the rubber meets the road — one more time.”

“We have an opportunity to clean up the environment and take our skills in marketing and awareness and put them to use,” Bill Robbins said. “Three hundred million tires are generated every ye& and there’s a huge problem. Few of them are recycled.”

Recycling should be sold as a logical alternative to sending tires to the landfill, as well as a means of cutting roadside pollution and even the health risks posed when water collects in tires.

Deborah Robbins connects consciousness with economy. Companies that want to buy “green” should be looking at the fine print, she said, because products sold in the United States are not necessarily made in the United States.

“We’re cleaning up Canada, we’re cleaning up the UK. We should be cleaning up Amen- cal’ she said.

The RubberForm plan is to press 5,000 to 10,000 pounds of shredded rubber per day. One passenger-vehicle tire contains 17 pounds of rubber, Bill Rob- bins said; that means 300 to 600 old tires can be taken out of circulation and given new life daily

Despite 35 years of annual Earth Days and the emergence of household recycling in many towns and cities, recycling’s value to earth and economy has yet to really sink in for most people. RubberForm plant manager George McNamara admits it’s true of him.

“The most interesting part of all this for me is realizing there’s actually a place for tires to go other than the Thruway or somewhere that they eventually get set on fire,” he said.

RubberForm will be the largest molded, recycled rubber manufacturer in the Northeast, according to Bill Robbins.

Product will start rolling in late August. McNamara is looking for two production people, a mixer operator and a press operator, to run the first and second presses; others will be hired as more presses are fired up. Production wages range from $10 to $14 an hour.

In its first year of operation, the company will employ seven to 10 people, including managers. By the terms of its deal with the Power Authority, the company will employ 20 people by the end of year two and 30 people by the end of year three.

By Joyce M. Miles – Lockport Union-Sun & JournalContact Joyce Miles at 439-9222, Ext. 6245 – [email protected]