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Empire Recycling to open scrap facility after $2 million renovation

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A giant heap of scrap metal is produced every year by construction work at Fort Drum and the surrounding region. But often, it’s then carted south to Syracuse or north into Canada, where larger metal processors are located.

That trend could change at 7:30 a.m. Monday, as one of the largest indoor scrap facilities statewide will open in Watertown at the former Black Clawson facility at 511 Pearl St.

To be called Empire Watertown Inc., the 45,000-square-foot renovated warehouse is a result of a $2 million project in which Perkins Scrap Metals was bought out by Empire Recycling Corp., Utica. The Perkins site at 129 Factory Square will close Monday, and its former staff will manage the Pearl Street operation as Empire employees under the deal.

“This is the only big dog on the block in the north country,” said Edward F. Perkins Jr., manager of the upgraded facility. “I have a piece in this because (Perkins) is going from a family business started by my father and I in 1984, and is still a family business” owned by Empire.

Empire purchased the 70,000-square-foot site in February for about $500,000, which includes an office building and storage space. Work on the $1 million renovation project, which broke ground in the spring, was completed by Jordstat Construction Inc., Alexandria Bay, and included the installation of windows and garage doors, and asbestos treatment of the walls.

About $500,000 went toward the purchase of new equipment: a 75-foot outdoor scale with a radiation detector behind the building, a 97-cubic-yard trailer and an excavation crane with a giant magnetic claw used to scoop up scrap. Empire also will collect scrap from off-site projects across the region using 24 large roll-off containers that can fit up to 50 cubic yards of metal.

Vehicles will weave around the west side of the building to the back to pass through the radiation detector and be weighed on the long automatic scale. The scale weighs loads in 20-pound increments, and customers will instantly see the weight on a digital screen. Those with lighter loads, including nonferrous metals, then will be measured on an indoor scale that weighs up to 500 pounds. After the scrap metal is collected inside the warehouse, the massive excavator crane will pick it up using an arm with a 20-foot reach and dump it into the tractor-trailer to be transported. The crane’s large claw is capable of hoisting a vehicle.

Mr. Perkins said the 90-year-old warehouse will feature all the latest high-tech equipment.

“This is probably the largest state-of-the-art indoor facility in the state,” he said.

With the Watertown warehouse, Empire has eight locations across the state.

Mr. Perkins said that because of its size, the warehouse will be able to meet the needs of builders who do work here but ship their scrap metal out of the region to be recycled. A good portion of the contractors doing work at Fort Drum have taken their scrap metal elsewhere because smaller businesses here don’t meet their needs, he said.

“They leave here with capital, but now they’ll stay here,” Mr. Perkins said. “We needed this investment to be competitive. It’s a huge economic impact, but people don’t realize it.”

Because of its ability to offer off-site services for builders, he said, Empire Watertown also will allow plenty of room for business growth. Along with serving builders at Fort Drum, the business will seek to expand north by serving clients in St. Lawrence County.

“We could go 100 miles north,” Mr. Perkins said.

Perkins Scrap Metals had a strong partnership over the past two decades with Empire, selling its scrap to Empire to be shredded and distributed.

“We’ve been planning on being in the Watertown area for many years, and we’ve had an alliance with Perkins for many years,” Empire President Steven R. Kowalsky said. “We purchased this building because it gives us enough space indoors and is convenient for customers.”

Though Empire will be open for business Monday, it plans to host a grand-opening ceremony this fall at a date to be determined. The hours of operation are 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7:30 a.m. to noon Saturday.

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