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Griffin Brothers’ Success Driven By Passion, Tenacity

Tue February 08, 2011 - Southeast Edition
Brenda Ruggiero

Larry Griffin Sr. is the founder and current owner of Griffin Brothers Companies in North Carolina, along with his two sons Larry Griffin Jr. and Mike Griffin. The company’s roots date back to 1961, when Griffin partnered with his brother to open Griffin Brothers Tire, a tire and auto repair center on the outskirts of uptown Charlotte.

“It was during my 37 years working that front desk where I learned the value of hard work and customer service,” Griffin said. “This still rings true today, as we continually preach customer service and treating everyone with respect in all aspects of our business from the halls of the corporate offices to the hard working folks changing tires.”

Since its inception, Griffin Brothers has been a family owned and operated business. Today, the company employs more than 200 people in four different businesses, including seven tire and auto repair centers, five construction and demolition landfills and recycle centers, one country club (Pine Island Country Club in Northwest Charlotte, N.C.), and a property development and management division.

“I was brought up in the school of hard knocks, and at a young age I understood that my tenacity and entrepreneurial sprit would make me successful,” Griffin explained. “It wasn’t my intelligence that got the company to where it is today, but passion and an ability to get things done that has helped the company see tremendous growth over 50 years.”

In particular, recycling has always been a passion for Griffin, since he believes that not only is it good for the environment and its citizens, but it also preserves precious landfill space.

“After watching all these valuable materials being buried in our five C&D landfills, I knew there was a better way,” he said. “In 2004, the economics and political climate created a perfect storm to allow us to construct our first recycling center focusing strictly on C&D materials.”

Griffin’s first full-scale recycling facility was opened in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The three-acre site included lots of heavy equipment. However, when the economics and politics of the area changed, Griffin was forced to close up shop. He is thankful to have learned some valuable lessons in that venture.

In early 2010, construction began on a new state-of-the-art recycling facility in Harrisburg, N.C. The facility began operation in December of 2010. Griffin is pleased that a large portion of the materials that would have otherwise ended up in the landfill have been diverted.

An extensive list of equipment is used at the new facility. An Erin Picking Station includes a finger screener to separate the fines and dirt and a conveyor belt to divert larger sized material to the workers. Workers then pick off valuable materials and place them in one of ten chutes for concrete, brick and block, cardboard, plastics, drywall, metals, asphalt shingles, and other C&D material. Residual non-recyclable material is sent to the landfill to be buried.

A Cat excavator picks up material and places it into the finger screener of the Erin Picking Station. A Cat dozer pushes material into hauling vehicles for recycling, further processing or burying in the landfill. A baler compresses the cardboards and plastics for sale, and a rock crusher crushes brick, block, and concrete into materials for sale and for road cover at the facility.

A Peterson 4710B grinder is used to grind gypsum wallboard/sheetrock as well as wood and yard debris. A Sandvik QA440 screener screens gypsum product into three different materials, including fine powder, paper/powder mix, and coarse material.

Griffin’s Cat equipment comes from Carolina Cat through their product support sales representative Rusty Lipe.

“He is a solid gentleman with a great passion for the equipment that he deals,” Griffin said. “Rusty has been a huge help over the years in guaranteeing Griffin Brothers with very strong and durable operating equipment.”

Lipe noted that Carolina CAT was established in 1926, and is the Caterpillar dealer for the western half of North Carolina. The home office is located in Charlotte, and there are branches in Asheville, Greensboro, Monroe, Hickory, Dillsboro and Boone.

According to Lipe, his duties as a product support representative include helping customers with equipment fleet maintenance, parts, service, repair and rebuild needs.

“I have been working with Griffin Brothers for four years, and have seen some drastic changes in the way they do business that are worth reporting,” Lipe said. “Some of these changes are using Grade + Grant funding, adding a complete new plant, and making changes to their offices to ’go green,’ such as adding heat systems that operate on renewable fuel (wood pellets) and waste oil heat systems that have been added to the shop in an effort to reduce waste. They have started grinding the waste sheetrock into materials that can be reused, wood pallets are ground up into a material that can be used as fuel, yard waste is ground into mulch/compost to be reused, and brick and concrete are crushed and sized into a reusable material.”

Griffin noted that the company has been involved with the Grade + Grant Funding program for over a year. The program is designed to give organizations an incentive to reduce the use of outdated equipment and engines that pollute the air and replace them with updated equipment and engines that limit and reduce emissions. Specifically, in 2010, Griffin replaced the engines on two of their landfill compactors, one in Lancaster County, S.C., and one in Mecklenburg County, N.C.

“The Grade + Grant Funding, in short, is a government grant to improve the air quality in Mecklenburg and surrounding counties by providing funds to repower, rebuild, or replace high emission producing engines,” Lipe explained further. “The grant does not pay 100 percent, but does provide some help for those who want to improve the environment.”

Lipe and Griffin Brothers employee Justin Mueller work together in the process to select and plan eligible equipment for grant funding, and Mueller then applies for the grant funds.

“Upon selection/approval from Grade officials, we work together to make changes and upgrades to their equipment,” Lipe said. “Justin is constantly looking for ways to improve their process, as well as the environment, and save their company money. I believe this is a wonderful story that shows how government grant funding and willing business owners can work together to improve our planet, reduce waste and recycle. These changes are huge to our environment and community, and I know that Mr. Larry Griffin has spent a lot of time and money to do his part. All of these changes have also added jobs at his facilities, and kept people in allied businesses working while providing some green products to the marketplace and keeping them out of the landfill.”

Griffin noted that his company is investing the time, effort and money to become the leading C&D recycling in the Carolinas.

“We are looking forward to a future where markets for recyclables are evolved and mature,” he said. CEG

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