A longtime recycling publisher and trade show organizer is being taken over by the Association of Plastic Recyclers.
The purchase of Resource Recycling Inc. includes three print publications, three websites and three conferences all centered around recycling.
The assets include the annual Plastics Recycling Conference as well as Plastics Recycling Update magazine and its website.
The move allows former owner Jerry Powell to ease further into retirement after 36 years, and provides APR with an expanded platform in the recycling arena.
It's been no secret that Powell, a well-known personality in recycling, has been looking to sell his business as he reached beyond typical retirement age. Now at 72, he's been working part-time for the past several years.
An earlier attempt by employees to assume control of the Portland, Ore.-based business ultimately did not work out, he said.
Powell indicated he received about a dozen "nibbles," mostly from trade groups and other media companies, about purchasing his company. He ultimately decided to go with APR.
The trade group has been a years-long partner with the company for the Plastics Recycling Conference, which has seen steady growth over the years. That conference, slated for March 11-13 near Washington, D.C., is expected to attract more than 2,000 attendees this year.
APR helps program the conference and sells exhibition space and sponsorships, receiving a portion of the proceeds to help fund its own operations. Purchase of the company not only protects that revenue stream, but also opens new opportunities.
"It's more about having the voice. It's important that APR have this platform to solidify our voice in the world," APR President Steve Alexander said. "APR is the only trade association [in the United States] whose exclusive focus is the plastics recycling industry. It's not a piece of other things we do. We thought it was important that we were able to maintain that relationship and that partnership with the Plastics Recycling Conference moving forward."
The media company also publishes the quarterly E-Scrap News and its flagship monthly Resource Recycling magazine. Both have associated websites and conferences.
Editorial staffers will not report to APR to maintain independence. But the two sides will continue their long-standing relationship of working together on conference sales and agendas.
Alexander said APR is committed to maintaining "journalistic integrity. … The communications component, the media component, will remain completely independent. We're not going to establish an APR magazine. That's not what this is about. They can write as many negative articles about us as they want."
"We will have no hand in the day-to-day editorial content of any of the publications," Alexander said.
"It will remain the same as it's always been," added Kara Pochiro, APR's vice president of communications and public affairs.
Both Powell and APR agreed that retaining staff, on both the editorial and conference sides, was key to making the deal work.
"To come in and just buy a brand would not be a sensible business decision, nor would it aid the industry. So it's important to me that my wonderful staff be maintained," Powell said.
Key managers have signed employment contracts with APR.
"I had two requirements on any sale. My staff has to stay together, and No. 2, editorial independence. And we were able to have both and that's just wonderful," Powell said.
APR, as trade groups go, is small.
"It's quite a leap for them," Powell said. "I'm bringing in 12 staff and everything else … so Steve has some ground work to do internally."
Alexander, for his part, says the Resource Recycling Conference has the potential to grow. That annual show attracts recyclers handling a variety of recyclables including metal, glass, paper and plastic. The gathering attracts about 500-700 people. Alexander pointed to larger generalized recycling shows in the past that were organized by the National Recycling Coalition. Those attracted more than 1,000 and are proof there is a need, he said.
Powell, however, said the Resource Recycling Conference has been hurt by a lack of money on the municipal level to send recycling coordinators on conference trips compared to previous spending.
Resource Recycling magazine has a circulation of about 14,000, and Plastics Recycling Update and E-Scrap News each have about 6,500 subscribers. The E-Scrap Conference attracts about 1,100-1,200 people annually, Powell said.
E-scrap, or electronic scrap, has a plastics component. Alexander said this will allow APR to delve deeper into that portion of plastics recycling.
Both men declined to reveal terms of the deal, although Powell did indicate there is a multiyear payout.