LINCOLNWOOD, ILL. - A 2-year-old plastics recycler has yet to turn a profit, yet it hopes other companies will steal its best-trained employees. That's because Lincolnwood-based Repro X has a decidedly not-for-profit agenda: job training for the disadvantaged.
Repro X was launched in 1994 by the Des Plaines, Ill.-based Private Industry Council of Northern Cook County, a nonprofit group that provides job training and career services.
Repro X's annual sales of $300,000 support a payroll of 12 trainees and five supervisors working two shifts. The trainees earn $5-$6 an hour as they progress through jobs of increasing difficulty during a two-year program.
They begin by sorting plastic scrap, serve a stint in the shipping department, learn to fix and maintain machinery and finally serve as assistant foreman. The students also are required to attend night or weekend courses.
It is unlikely the company will earn a profit soon. Repro X supports one supervisor for every four workers, compared to a ratio of one manager for 10 employees at more typical private firms, says sales manager Lewis Kirkwood.
So far, the company has placed only three graduates in permanent jobs; Kirkwood estimates that half of the 24 trainees accepted jobs before completing the two-year cycle.
``It's a demanding program,'' he said.
The business started slowly because previous managers weren't knowledgeable about handling and sorting different grades of scrap, said Dennis Gibrick, president of Northbrook, Ill.-based Best Enterprises Inc., a broker and recycling company that buys scrap from Repro X.
Repro X buys industrial plastic scrap, which it sorts and then grinds into flake. The flake is shipped by the truckload to fabricators that use the material for products such as toys, floor tile and housewares.
The company's recycled plastics are also traded on the Chicago Board of Trade's new Recyclables Exchange, an electronic bulletin board that trades glass, paper and plastic.
Gibrick credits Kirkwood with establishing professional standards: ``He turned it around.''
The company has made pro-gress. Last fall, it received an award for innovation in nonprofit management from the Peter F. Drucker Foundation, a New York group that focuses on nonprofits.
Mary Pepperl, president and executive director of the Private Industry Council, says the startup is attractive because it is an environmentally friendly business that ``provides people with an opportunity to move from welfare to work without dependence on government funding.''