Highest priorities: Health and safety

For the past 35 years, I have been proud to live, work and raise my family here in Cass County. I love this area and am proud to call it home. My love of community and passion to make it a more desirable place for others to live and work has been the driving force behind my 23-year tenure on the Pioneer Regional School Corporation (including several as president), my 12 years as a Cass County reserve deputy sheriff, and my current involvement with the Noon Kiwanis and the Cass County Community Foundation.

I have also been fortunate to have worked for outstanding and high-quality companies over the course of my career, and Waelz Sustainable Products (WSP) is no exception. As general manager of the new WSP zinc recycling facility, I will continue doing what I do best: taking care of people, the environment, and prioritizing the health and safety of those in an industrial setting.

As I began to hear about WSP over the past year, I wanted to learn more about what it meant for Cass County. As a proud Purdue Boilermaker and an industrial engineer, I dug in the only way I know how – I looked at the facts and followed the science. I looked at the history and track record of the companies behind the joint venture. I asked hard questions about corporate leadership and company practices during my interview process. And I came away convinced that I wanted to be a part of it.

With an investment of $110 million and a substantial annual payroll of $4.5 million, WSP will be a significant source of good-paying jobs and economic activity at a time when our local economy needs a boost. I also came to realize that “sustainable” isn’t just in their name – it’s at the heart of what they do.

WSP will provide a sustainable, environmentally sound manufacturing solution for the byproducts generated from furnaces operated by steel mini-mills – zinc-rich material that would otherwise be landfilled. Instead, WSP provides the critical ingredient to produce zinc oxide needed for numerous applications, such as galvanizing (i.e., protecting) steel, tire and rubber, ceramics, lubricants, motor oil, ointments, and more.

Importantly, WSP employs the Best Demonstrated Available Technology as designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for processing this material. Additionally, the WSP facility will have state-of-the-art and innovative technologies that ensure we are meeting and exceeding our permitted emission limits. Before accepting this job, it was critically important to me that the facility be equipped with the mitigation and capture technologies — and the necessary monitoring — to achieve high efficiency and minimize emissions. I would not have joined WSP if I believed that the facility posed a health or safety risk to employees, local residents or our environment. After all, my family and friends live here too.

Safety and compliance are crucial to the success of any manufacturing operation. Before joining WSP, I oversaw facilities across the U.S. and have always ensured that they complied with and exceeded stringent federal, state and local environmental and safety standards. Safety is not only the foundation of my work, but it is also essential for any company’s success. I am proud of my track record, and I intend to continue to place safety at the center of what I do today and in the future with WSP.

I understand and respect those in the community who may have reservations about this project, but I want to work to earn their confidence by building a dedicated team that will make this facility an important part of our economic base. I have been heartened by those who have reached out to me personally to ask about job opportunities, as it shows me that there is support for WSP in our community. Indeed, one of my first tasks will be to help hire the senior management for the facility, who will in turn help staff and train all employees to ensure optimal performance on Day One.

But to those who still have questions or concerns, I would welcome an opportunity to hear from you directly in hopes of having an honest conversation about this operation. I think transparency and open dialogue are important for the long-term relationship of WSP and our community. In the coming weeks, I will be meeting with many local stakeholders and other interested parties, but I also invite my fellow residents to contact me personally, so we can talk through these issues together. You can reach me at question@waelzsp.com or learn more at www.WSPCassCounty.com or on Facebook.

I’m convinced that WSP will make a positive contribution to our community both for the many hardworking families it will support but also for the sustainable and environmentally friendly role it will play in recycling a valuable natural resource. So as we begin this exciting new chapter together, I want to make a public commitment to all of you: the health and safety of workers and residents alike and the environment in which we live will always be my highest priorities.

Mike Englert, general manager, Waelz Sustainable Products

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