CORONA, CALIF. — Resin recycler Talco Plastics Inc. faced a classic site dilemma.
``We knew we couldn't grow and expand in Whittier [Calif.] as early as 1994,'' said Jack Shedd, president. ``We had to make a decision whether to stay there or grow.''
Growth won. Now, the family-owned firm recycles post-industrial plastics in Corona after completing an extensive process of site selection, design and construction and, in August, relocating 32 miles.
Whittier was ``maxed out,'' Shedd said at the new site. ``We were in a manufacturing area but close to residential. Truck traffic was inconvenient.''
Talco saw the Corona move as essential, despite recycling's current slowness. Manufacturers bring scrap, sorted by resin type, to the Talco plant, where it is ground, blended and pelletized into a usable form. The firm has an inventory of about 9 million pounds and annually processes more than 50 million pounds.
Certain injection molding and extrusion customers ask Talco for resins with customized alloys, colors or fillers, such as talc or glass strands. The recycler stocks at least 30 commodity and engineering resin grades.
Other Southern California firms in the same niche include Joe's Plastics Inc. in Pico Rivera and Los Angeles and Ecoplast Corp. in Chino and Los Angeles.
Talco spent a year evaluating locations that would keep the operation's recycled trove near major highways and accessible to the core customer base in Los Angeles County.
``We could not afford to get too far away,'' Shedd said. ``The transportation issues are tough enough out here.''
Ontario and Riverside were possibilities, but the firm knew Corona, having operated a small recycling facility there under contract from 1991-95.
``We were familiar with the area,'' but, more importantly, ``you have to keep going until you can afford the land,'' said Bob Shedd, vice president of business development and the point person for the project. ``Out here, the values of land were so much less than they were closer into the city.'' Jack and Bob Shedd are brothers.
Riverside County tax records indicate SBD Properties Inc. of Santa Ana, Calif., sold 17.8 acres for $1.7 million, about $2.19 per square foot, in January 1996. A small land exchange, requested by the city of Corona, enlarged the Talco holding to 20 acres.
Current comparable sites in Corona cost $5.50-$6 per square foot, according to Jeff Ruscigno, vice president with Lee & Associates, a Riverside-based commercial real estate service. Mitch Zehner, the site's listing and selling broker, estimated today's comparable value between $4-$5 per square foot.
Talco marked several milestones in mid-1997, securing a financing commitment in June, agreeing on a final design in July and beginning site work in September. Employees provided extensive design input.
The city helped, assembling a TeamCorona cadre of fire, public works, planning and building officials for an early discussion about process and codes.
``We couldn't have done it without their cooperation,'' Bob Shedd said.
Talco developed 10 acres initially and holds in reserve the other 10 acres with potential for a siding spur from adjacent railroad tracks.
A paved storage yard covers five acres. The plant-warehouse, which has unusually high 30-foot ceilings, and the two-story office areas occupy 110,000 square feet of floor space. Seven loading docks allow truck access to the building, and four outside loading docks are located away from the building for preliminary sorting.
Talco segregated its five-machine blending room, aiming to confine dust and avoid contaminating the repelletizing operation. Even further removed is the grinding equipment, a noisy dirty operation outside the building under an overhanging roof.
Skylights dot the ceiling. An efficient materials-handling system is in place. And utilities are installed overhead in a grid pattern for easy access.
Talco is establishing a 500-square-foot quality laboratory with hooded benches, test equipment and an injection molding machine for sampling. The engineering department has a computerized three-dimensional-design capability.
The project endured the usual glitches and El Ni¤o-related rains, which ``slowed us down another 90 days,'' Bob Shedd said. ``We had to wait to dry things out'' although it seemed ``we never had a two-week gap before another deluge came through.''
Talco completed the relocation during August and vacated the leased Whittier site as of Sept. 1. The total project cost about $6 million for the land, construction and some equipment.
The firm employed 95 in Whittier and has 85 in Corona. ``We kept most of the key foremen and above,'' Jack Shedd said.
Talco aims to position itself to take advantage of the next upturn in the market. Its shipments of recycled materials have grown in recent years, but lower resin prices have flattened sales.
The company had 1992 sales of $7 million, approached $17.5 million in 1995 and is exceeding $15 million this year. The West Coast makes up about 75 percent of Talco's volume.
``We actually go to the East Coast with some higher-value items,'' said John Shedd, Talco chairman and father of the key executives. The rest is exported, mostly to Mexico and Asia.
A fire destroyed a Talco collection and regrinding operation in a leased Vinton, Texas, plant near El Paso in June 1997. ``We chose not to reopen it,'' said John Shedd. ``We are able to do everything in Corona that we did in El Paso.'' Talco was repelletizing the Texas output in Whittier.
The Corona project has no impact on Talco's post-consumer plastics recycling plant in North Long Beach, Calif. That site opened in 1994 and employs 45.
Talco has appointed William O'Grady as vice president of manufacturing with responsibility for the Corona operations. Formerly, he was general manager in North Long Beach.