CEO and owner at Scrap Central Inc.
From a young age, Jennifer Jones knew she wanted to someday join her mother, Sheila Jones, and work for Scrap Central Inc., Sheila’s scrap metal recycling business in Omaha, Nebraska. Sheila started the business in 2001, and Jennifer says she can remember being about 10 years old helping her mother by weighing can customers on Saturday afternoons at the scrap yard.
“I grew up around the business,” Jennifer says. “I basically fell in love with the business from day one. The joke in the industry is that you get bit by the scrap bug, and I definitely was bit and wanted to keep learning and growing.”
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln in 2010, Jennifer started to work full time at Scrap Central, helping to lead the business alongside her mother. In 2011, about six months after Jennifer started working there full time, Sheila died of cancer, and Jennifer decided to step up as CEO of the company.
“It was tough,” she says of that time. “I had only six months to work with [my mother] after I graduated college. After she passed away, I struggled every day for six months. I’d have to come to work, put on a tough face, come home at night and cry and then get up the next morning to do the same thing. Eventually, I went into a fight-or-flight mode, and I was just determined to succeed and make my parents proud. I focused all my time and energy into the business, which I think allowed us to really expand and grow.”
Since becoming CEO in 2011, Jennifer says Scrap Central has grown. In 2014, the company moved from a 0.5-acre site to a 7-acre site in Omaha. Today, Scrap Central employs 36 people and is focused on growing its industrial and commercial business as well as its wire chopping business.
Recycling Today (RT): What are some new things that happened at the business in 2019?
Jennifer Jones (JJ): 2019 was a really exciting year for us. Not only did we grow our volumes year over year, but we also added a lot of new equipment ... because we took over servicing one of the largest steel manufacturers in the Midwest. We purchased a new semitrailer, added four open-top scrap trailers and another crane to our equipment fleet.
“My mom always taught me from a young age that in this industry, you move with the markets.”
RT: Last year, the scrap industry experienced challenging market conditions. How did Scrap Central work through the tough market conditions?
JJ: Despite the downturn in the markets, we were still doing really well in my opinion.
My mom always taught me from a young age that in this industry, you move with the markets. What gets a lot of people in trouble is greed—they hold, hold, hold, thinking it goes up; but, as a matter of fact, it can go down just as easy as it can go up.
We also try to be ahead of the trends and have diversified into several different recycling streams.
RT: What new technologies do you hope the industry will embrace?
JJ: I’d love to see the industry move toward more green, environmentally friendly equipment. We’re seeing some electric cranes come out and some heavy-duty equipment with lower emissions.
Down the line, I’d love to see alternative energy sources, such as solar panels, help to power our facility—especially since our [MTB] Cable Box [wire chopping system] requires so much electricity.
The solar panels right now are cost prohibitive for us; but, down the line, if they were to become less expensive and if we felt they could supply enough power, we would think about investing in them.