Heather Burns (front) and Phyllis Bueker sort plastic, paper and cans at Whitley Environmental Thursday afternoon. Post & Mail photo / Nicole Ott
COLUMBIA CITY â€” Recycling is good for the planet, but it is also good for the economy.
When the Whitley County Solid Waste Management District was in search of a new contract for recycling collection, Dwayne Knott, of Columbia City, saw it as an opportunity to build a business.
â€śAt the time, research showed cardboard was bringing in $110,000,â€ť Knott said. â€śI saw that as a business opportunity.â€ť
Knott formed Whitley Environmental and brought on his long-time friend, Steve Smith, of South Whitley, as a partner.
Promoting the new business to the solid waste districtâ€™s board was an up-hill challenge, but Knott had some unlikely supporters in his corner.
Kenneth Himes, from Himco Waste-Away Service, Inc. in Elkhart, had offered the board a competing bid for the countyâ€™s recycling service contract.
In the end, Himesâ€™ rates were high and knocked the company out of the running. However, that didnâ€™t stop Himes from showing up at one of the board meetings to lobby on behalf of Knott.
â€śWhen he showed up I was a bit nervous,â€ť Knott said. â€śBut he told the board that they should believe in us. He told them that his grandfather had started his company out of nothing and if it wasnâ€™t for people believing in him back then, they wouldnâ€™t have a business to speak of.â€ť
Himes assured the board that if Knott and Smith were not able to acquire the trucks needed to pick up the recyclables, Himco had a fleet they could loan the pair until they could purchase their own.
â€śI was shocked.â€ť said Knott. â€śYou donâ€™t see that kind of thing in business today.â€ť
The board did approve the contract with Whitley Environmental and Solid Waste Management District Director Jorell Tucker said it was the opportunity to keep the business within the county that was a bonus for Knott and Smith.
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