The Power Pallet Recycling Center in Amsterdam has more business than it can handle.
Every day, as many as 12,000 pallets are shipped to hundreds of area customers, including Beech-Nut and Railex, but that’s just half the business. Power Pallet repairs, recycles and builds pallets to order.
The most rapid growth is taking place in its recycling operation. In just five years, company President Sam Donadio and his brother Gary have built the recycling end from nothing to 50 percent of the business.
“We’re a one-stop shop,” Gary Donadio said, “We’ll bring a company pallets and pick up their recycling. They can deal with one business rather than three or four.”
It’s grown so much the Donadios are planning to break ground on a $1.2 million expansion in October.
“We’re pretty much maxed out at this point,” Sam Donadio said. “We can’t grow if we don’t expand.”
It was that growth that brought U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, out to the factory Thursday morning. While the public might be used to politicians making speeches, Tonko was all ears.
He and a small group of company officials donned hard hats and safety glasses before stepping into the thundering center of the pallet industry for a tour.
The group walked from the industrial band saws, where the used bits get broken down, to the piles of clean lumber and to the mountains of finished pallets stacked in the loading bay.
The tour included a visit to Larry Hamm, who is in charge of nailing together the very best pallets. He’ll crank out about 120 a day using an air-gun and rough building jig.
“I’m impressed, Larry,” Tonko said, after a quick demonstration.
“I love it here,” Hamm said, returning to work as the congressman moved on. “They’ve been really good to me.”
A large part of the tour, however, required imagination.
Gary Donadio stood in an open section of the factory and motioned to where the expansion will be built.
The addition will consist of thousands of square feet of loading bays and machinery, including one very large automatic baler.
“We’ve already got five manual balers,” said recycling coordinator Bob Shepardson. “The automatic baler will be able to do the work of all five in half a day.”
Balers are very important to the recycling end of things. For example, bales of cardboard collected by Power Pallet are shipped to paper factories. For shipping, the idea is to get as much weight into as small an area as possible. The new baler will be built around very strong hydraulic rams capable of crushing a lot of cardboard, or anything for that matter, into a very small bale.
That increased efficiency stands to increase profit.
Tonko hailed businesses like Power Pallet as the future of the economy.
“Economic growth is a three-legged stool,” he said. “We need to fortify small business, help entrepreneurs and build a thriving middle class.”
It might be growing, but Sam Donadio pointed out a few things that could stall the business.
“We’re in a position to make a little money,” he said, “but if we’re not as efficient as possible, we’re also in a position to lose a lot of money.”
Power Pallet owns its own fleet of trucks. Roughly $1.5 million and $125,000 go toward diesel and Thruway tolls per year, respectively. If either of those costs go up, the company could see an immediate decrease in profit.
While Tonko was impressed by the tour, he said that’s not the only reason he came out.
“Small business is so important,” he said. “So I need to learn firsthand what they need to grow.”
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