PILOT MOUNTAIN — Nearly seven months after experiencing a fire at its facility, New River Tire Recycling is going stronger than ever according to owner Ben Bryant.
The company started eight years ago in Virginia and, after outgrowing two previous locations there, made Pilot Mountain its permanent home in January 2014.
Bryant said that opposition for his business from citizens and local elected officials started when the company first moved into town; however criticisms increased after the Jan. 12 fire.
“The town has actively tried to regulate us through ordinances,” Bryant said. “People need to look at who they’re electing, because they’re really hindering job growth.”
Following the company’s move to its current location, the town passed an ordinance that prohibited similar operations from planting roots in town, however according to Michael Boaz, interim town manager, New River Tire Recycling was grandfather in since it opened before the ordinance was passed.
“That was due to the fact that we came into town,” Bryant said of the ordinance. “The town has been very reactive.”
“To my knowledge it meets all of the zoning requirements,” Boaz said of the operation.
As for any residual environmental impact of the fire, Bryant said all of the burnt ash was hauled off of the site months ago and that the business hasn’t received any sort of violations.
“The EPA was present during the whole period of time that the fires were being put out,” Bryant said.
The fire was ruled as arson and Bryant said that there were multiple fires in a number of piles of finished product that was waiting to be shipped. Bryant explained that there’s no possible way that the fire could have started naturally and spread due to the fact that the components that make up tires wouldn’t have allowed for an open flame.
“Whoever set the fire was out to take us down and they were unsuccessful at it, we’re going stronger than ever,” Bryant said.
When arson was confirmed as the source of the fires, Daryl Bottoms, town chief of police, called the State Bureau of Investigation, which took over the investigation.
“They had resources that as a small town police department we didn’t have,” Boaz said, adding that the SBI brought in trained arson investigators.
“We’re still actively working it,” said the special agent in charge of the investigation.
Bryant explained that he had placed fences around both sides and the front of the facility not long before the fire was started, however the back of the property was left exposed. Bryant said that the back side is facing a heavily vegetated hill and didn’t think that anyone would enter the facility from that side, adding that the person who started the fire would have had to gain entry through that point of access. Immediately following the fire, the back of the facility was fenced in, as well.
“We knew we had to take some measure to prevent something like that in the future,” Bryant said.
Bryant said that over the past three years he has invested in the neighborhood of $3 million in the facility, adding that he has firm plans to stay right where he is.
“We’ve got plenty of room to grow here,” Bryant said. “I feel like its going to be plenty for what we want to do with our top-end goals.”
“I feel like … because we’re a recycling company, people look down on us,” Bryant said, adding that he believes if his company were making tires, public perception of his company would be more favorable.
Among the benefits of the company being located in Pilot Mountain, Bryant said that currently 15 people are employed by the business and he projects adding five more positions in the next six to eight months. He added that about three-fourths of his employees live in Pilot Mountain.
According to Bryant, his company has contracts with 10 different counties.
Aila Boyd may be reached at 336-415-2210.