On a 17-acre lot in Livonia sits a nondescript business on track to bring in $75 million in revenue this year. Employees wear safety vests and work primarily outdoors amid old, beat-up cars and stacks upon stacks of metal pieces.That business is GLR Advanced Recycling – a metal and car scrapyard.
The company, founded in 2014 through a merger with Advanced Recycling and Great Lakes Recycling (founded in 1927), has eight scrapyards throughout Michigan and one in New York, recycling everything from electronics to paper, plastic and cardboard.
GLR Advanced, owned by partners Mike Bassirpour, Ilene Bischer, Ben Rosen and Sandy Rosen, is in an expansion phase despite a recent downturn in the scrap business due to the declining price of commodities.”I found opportunity in a bad market and (we found) our niches in scrap cars and the way we’re building our product,” Bassirpour said. “A lot of companies are closing.”
Yet, GLR Advanced is looking to hire 50 more employees (about a third of its current workforce) by the end of the year and open two more yards by that time, with plans to eventually expand nationally.
Bassirpour, 34, got his start in the scrap business when he was 25 and had moved back to metro Detroit.
“I found interest in making money off things people would otherwise throw away,” he said. “I found that appealing, and I think it’s a recession-proof business that will always be around. No matter what, people are always going to discard stuff.”
Bassirpour eventually went out on his own, launching Advanced Recycling in 2014 and merging with GLR that same year.
The combined company started with a metal scrapyard in Roseville and a metal and scrap vehicle yard in Livonia, then quickly expanded with a metal and scrap vehicle yard in Port Huron; a metal yard in Ann Arbor; a paper, plastic and cardboard yard in Northville; an electronics yard in Oak Park; a metal, paper and plastic yard in Flint; and a metal, paper and plastic yard in New York.
Bassirpour hopes to have another yard in metro Detroit as well as a yard closer to the west side of the state by the end of the year.
The company found success in scrapping cars — a division Bassirpour started a year-and-a-half ago in Livonia. GLR Advanced buys cars from junkyards, tow truck drivers, the general public and through car donation services.
“In Livonia, there wasn’t a big presence of scrap car buyers,” Bassirpour said. “We kind of just taught ourselves that side of the business. We found unique ways to get the cars using the internet, a lot of different lead sources and a lot of ways to process them.”
The company is processing more than 1,000 cars a month. GLR Advanced is also expanding with a Craigslist-like website called thescrappost.com, a brainchild of Bassirpour. For $50 a month, customers can either create a listing to sell or buy a certain product or material complete with photos and pricing.
“It caught on pretty quick because our industry needed a better medium for connecting buyers and sellers,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s a network of people all doing the same thing trying to make money.”
Now 3 years old, the website has about 1,500 members and is projected to bring in $5 million in revenue in 2016, up from $984,000 in 2015. Peter Karmanos’ Birmingham-based Mad Dog Technology owns half of the company.
Bassirpour anticipates that Scrap Post — combined with a new, more tech-savvy generation of scrap company owners and more exposure for the site — will take off, especially in an industry lagging in innovation.
Another problem to overcome? The public’s perception of the scrapping industry, especially the industry’s reputation in Detroit, where scrap from empty buildings and homes is often stolen or salvaged and sold illegally.
Bassirpour said that has an adverse effect on attracting employees, as well as the fact that GLR Advanced and the scrap industry is a “business that isn’t pretty and people don’t really talk about much.”
However, that seems to be changing. With notable investors, new technologies and plans to expand nationally, GLR Advanced appears poised to help usher in a new era for the scrap industry in metro Detroit.