DUNDEE, MICH. — Robert Joyce is sure he's onto something big — something that could open up his modest profile extrusion machinery business to big new markets. But the owner of Plastic Machinery Enterprises in Dundee fears he may have to pack up and relocate to another state unless he can get financial assistance from Michigan to expand the business.
The new business extrudes sheet made with waste wood and virgin polypropylene. The product is getting the attention of folks in the automotive, packaging, agricultural, furniture and transportation industries, Joyce said.
"This is something I do on the side. This right here is trying to build a business," Joyce said while inspecting the product as it slowly moved between the rolls.
Joyce uses a mixture containing 40 percent waste wood. He gets the scrap for free from furniture companies in Michigan and Ohio.
"They give it to me because they'd have to landfill it," Joyce said at his sparse, 14,200-square-foot plant. "There's at least 200 tons of waste wood being landfilled per month, and that's a real conservative figure."
Joyce also hopes to replace the virgin PP with recycled resin in the near future.
Joyce, who grew up in Michigan, said that seeing competitors in Ohio, Kentucky, Wisconsin and New Mexico benefiting from tax credits and grant programs for similar products is pushing him to consider relocating.
"If Michigan doesn't understand recycling is a legitimate business, they're going to lose a lot of business," he said.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Recycling and Litter Prevention offers annual grants, through county solid waste districts, to companies that recycle or manufacture with at least 10 percent recycled content.
Kentucky offers a 50 percent tax credit, through the Kentucky Wood Waste Alliance, toward the purchase of equipment to process waste wood.
Currently, Michigan offers no such incentive, and a bill that would provide a 20 percent tax credit to small businesses appears to be stalled. House Bill 4022, introduced in January by state Rep. Paul Wojno, D-Warren, would allow the credit for the purchase and installation of equipment used to produce items from recyclable materials or to process post-consumer waste.
However, Wojno aide Matt Sabaugh already is admitting defeat.
"It's not going to come up for a vote," Sabaugh said in a telephone interview from Wojno's office in Lansing. "It appears to be a good bipartisan bill, but everything we're hearing is, it's not going anywhere."
If the bill were to pass, Joyce said he would purchase two more Leistritz extruders like the 15-year-old, twin-screw model he bought about a year ago to run prototypes of the wood-plastic sheet. He also would add more mixing equipment.
Joyce said that if he could manage to expand, he would add 20 employees to his current three, and he would expect to double his current annual sales of about $250,000.
"I had three customers last week that wanted the product for applications that are larger than I can do," Joyce said.
Joyce explained that the product is cheaper than 100 percent plastic sheet, but slightly more expensive than wood. However, since you can't thermoform wood, the sheet is very attractive in some applications, he said.