DeerPath hopes to spur growthPublished 4:23pm Tuesday, October 30, 2012
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton spent an hour Tuesday morning touring DeerPath Recyclers, which wants to enlist the St. Joseph Republican’s help in obtaining a railroad spur which could breathe life into Dowagiac’s moribund industrial park.
DeerPath specializes in collecting scrap passenger, semi, tractor and off-the-road tires and processing them into various size nuggets and finer crumb rubber.
There are many applications for the material, including one ground so fine it looks like black sand:
• Industrial markets (automotive parts, molded goods, new tires, extruded parts, mats and roofing.
• Athletic surfacing (tennis courts, running tracks, playgrounds and walking paths (poured in place or loose fill), fields and soil enhancement.
DeerPath did Lakeshore’s football field conversion to artificial turf, as well as gridirons in Jackson, East Grand Rapids and Detroit.
• Rubberized asphalt.
• Equestrian footing.
• Landscaping and playground mulch.
DeerPath hauls scrap tires it processes from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Besides producing crumb rubber, it sells used tires and buys butyl inner tubes.
DeerPath’s Michael Demski said, “This little facility here grinds a million tires a year into usable products. There’s another company looking at coming here that would allow this plant to go to 5 million. We are down from three shifts to one because the crumb end of the market softened up, so you have to adjust. There’s 10 million people in Michigan, and it’s a tire per year per person, so we do 10 percent and switch our paths as time goes on,” such as the manhole marker made in Mishawaka and stackable blocks used instead of hay bales on construction projects and another block to cushion guardrails.
City economic development consultant Cindy LaGrow indicated a railroad spur could entice other prospects from across the area willing to pay a reasonable fee to ship.
DeerPath sends products as far as Rumford, Maine, but has been hampered by the Oct. 21 Amtrak derailment, which tore up 300 feet of track east of Niles it used.
Besides jobs, gas prices were much on the minds of DeerPath employees, who drive to work from Grand Rapids, Allegan and Gobles.
Upton toured a Sturgis plant and encountered employees commuting from Niles.
“That’s why it’s important we get these gas prices down,” the congressman said.
“When we started eight years ago, most of my workforce was out of Chicago,” Demski said.
Would superstorm Sandy slamming ashore along the Eastern seaboard spike the fuel picture?
“I hope not,” Upton said. “There are some refineries in the east in Philadelphia, but demand will be down with no one driving. As for the election being delayed, Congress could, but I don’t see that happening, though it will be tough for communities without power. I’m sure the losing side will blame the storm.”
“We demand 18 millions of barrel a day of oil for transportation,” Upton said, “and pump 8 million or 9 million, so it’s got to come from somewhere. I’m a big supporter of the Keystone pipeline for a North American energy independence plan so we don’t have to rely on Mideast oil. Iran last month called for $150 barrels — about double what it is today.”