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Mississippi Couple Is Growing More than Just a Pallet Recycling Business
A-1 Pallet Remanufacturing Reclaimed Lumber with Yield Pro and Profile Technology
By Carolee Anita Boyles
Date Posted: 6/1/2004
“My wife, Charlotte, wanted to contribute something back to the community,” Carl Monte Reeves recalled. “As a joke, I told her, ‘Why don’t you get old tires or old pallets off the streets?’”
Monte could be a poster child for ‘Beware of the jokes you make.’
“I thought her pallet idea would last about a week, and then we’d move on to another idea,” Monte said. “But this has gone from just an idea to an industry that has a lot of social benefit.”
At the time Charlotte — who has lived in
Getting the company started was a struggle, however. The bankers they worked with to finance the start-up did not have the same vision for the company as
“We said, ‘Wait just a minute. That’s defeating our purpose of recycling,’” she said. “We want to save things. That’s why we want this abandoned property.” Besides, she pointed out to the bankers, if they located the business outside the city limits, the people they hoped to employ would not be able to get to work.
Although their commitment to revitalize old properties and serve the unemployed made the start-up of A-1 Pallet very difficult financially, the couple stuck to their guns. Eventually they were able to open the business where they were needed. They located the company in a historically depressed section of
“We were able to get them off the streets, off welfare, and back into the work force,”
The couple has gone far beyond starting a business that provides jobs for inner city residents. They’re provided housing, transportation, loans, counseling, and other personal services for employees. Their company also provides lunch and other necessities to promote healthy attitudes for workers each day while increasing production.
Initially the Reeveses started A-1 Pallet as a pallet retrieval and repair business. As pallet recycling became more accepted and widespread, however, competition for pallet cores increased, and the company broadened its scope.
Today A-1 Pallet is both a pallet recycling and a manufacturing company with three locations in
“We recycle pallets, but we also have the capacity to manufacture pallets,”
A-1 Pallet got its start by focusing on recycling standard GMA pallets. By 1998, however, it was getting an increasing number of requests for special and custom pallets. In order to meet this demand, the company had to incorporate manual and automated work methods. It added pallet dismantling equipment and a trim saw to increase production of recycled lumber and also invested in a nailing machine.
A-1 Pallet deals in such pallet sizes as 48x40, 48x48, 42x42, 44x44, 36x36 and 40x32. About 70% of sales consist of GMA pallets while custom and specialty pallets made up the remaining 30%.
A-1 Pallet is the only pallet supplier in
A-1 Pallet completely remanufactures the reclaimed lumber it recovers from used pallets. The lumber recovery operations are equipped with bandsaw dismantling machines supplied by Pallet Systems Manufacturing. Used stringers and deck boards are cut to the appropriate length on trim saws supplied by Pallet Repair Systems (PRS) and Pallet Systems Manufacturing.
The reclaimed wood is put through a Yield Pro planer equipped with Profile Technology Nailbuster tooling; the specialty tooling, which cuts through nails, completely resurfaces the wood. “They create a board that looks just like a new board,” Monte said. A PRS stringer sizer ensures that used stringers are sized to correct, uniform thickness.
The company buys a small volume of new material, usually in the form of 4x6 oak cants in 16-foot lengths, and it resawn into new pallet stock.
For automated pallet assembly, the company turned to Viking for a Champion nailing machine. “We bought the machine brand new, and we were probably one of the first recyclers that got a Champion,” Monte said.
For pallet repairs, A-1 has Minick lead board removers, which double as repair tables.
Eagle Metal sales rep Clarence Leising is his “secret weapon,” said Monte. “Clarence comes by frequently and updates us on what the industry is doing,” he said. “Plus, he gives me pointers on how to improve my incoming and outgoing processing work flow.” A-1 uses Eagle Metal plates and equipment for plating stringers and splicing stringers.
The company has purchased a number of used machines from Trace Equipment Corp. A-1 uses Mid-Continent Nail Corp’s Magnum fasteners – both bulk and collated nails. Saw blades are supplied by Saw Service & Supply Inc.
A-1 Pallet gives away scrap wood in the winter for firewood; scrap material is stored in the warm months. Small pieces are sent to a landfill until the company can launch a wood waste energy program.
Part of the reason for A-1 Pallet’s success is the company’s market position, according to
A-1 Pallet won a 2003 Top 40 Award as one of the 40 fastest-growing companies in
The company is heavily involved in volunteer work. For the past five years the Reeveses have been Phi Theta Kappa scholarship judges and have been involved with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Jackson. Their involvement with the Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs has brought about some interesting contacts, most notably with former First Lady Barbara Bush.
Although working with the under-employed has had its challenges,
One of the biggest challenges A-1 Pallet has faced is from people scavenging for pallets. “For the most part they’re street people,”
A-1 Pallet used to pick up excess and damaged pallets and clean up wood debris at various businesses at no charge. It was ‘paid’ in the cores and raw material it got for its pallet recycling operations.
However, once the scavengers came on the scene, it became much harder for the company to find good cores that could be repaired and recycled.
The solution? Instead of fighting with the scavengers, the Reeveses got to know them. “What we did was make friends with some of them,”
A-1 Pallet is committed to more than just being a pallet company. “We strongly believe that it will take a concerted effort to conserve our dwindling natural resources,”
A-1 Pallet is an environmentally friendly company at both ends of the spectrum, she noted. “At one end we’re preserving trees, which are the lungs of the earth, and greatly conserving the amount of energy that’s needed to process trees to lumber. At the other end of the spectrum, we’re saving valuable space in landfills and reducing the amount of energy it takes to dispose of unwanted pallets.”
In the future,
“We need to make a lot of strides to be sure we’re not so dependent on foreign countries for oil,”