Former Stanrail facility

The site of the former Stanrail plant could be the location for a large tire recycling facility in Gary.

GARY — A businessman from New Buffalo, Michigan, and his partners are hoping to open a large tire recycling center at the site of the former Stanrail railcar parts plant here.

Peter Shirk, who grew up in Gary, said his company plans to make an investment of about $38 million to open the center at 1225 Martin Luther King Drive, which his company is in the process of acquiring from the WES Group Inc.

He indicated his company, ReEnergize of Indiana, would be dealing with the Indiana Finance Authority for the issuance of a bond to cover some of the cost, although he said those details still were being worked out.

Shirk appeared before the City Council's Planning Committee recently,  where the company's request for a special use permit was discussed prior to advancing to the council this week for possible final approval.

Shirk said there will be about 60 permanent employees at the plant. The workers could include some of the 103 employees laid off when the Stanrail plant closed its doors earlier this year, according to Shirk.

The company plans to use the 120,000-square-foot main building at the site to process the tires and store the products it manufactures there. According to a brochure put out by the company, the finished products it hopes to sell can include steel wire, diesel fuel and Masterbatch, which is used in the manufacture of plastics.

According to Shirk, the type of system the company plans to operate is in place in Asia and other countries like Germany, but this would be the first one in the United States.

At the recent committee meeting, Council President Ron Brewer said his biggest concern was the potential of a tire fire. If such a fire occurred, Brewer said "it would cost us as a city a tremendous amount of manpower" to battle it.

Shirk said he understood Brewer's concern if there were a tire fire, but indicated the chances of that happening were minuscule. He said the tires would be dumped out and shredded within hours. They then would be introduced into the equipment to be converted into the finished product. He also said the facility will have people there at all times, and there are sprinkler systems in place. 

Shirk said tires would be acquired from throughout Northwest Indiana and the Chicago area. The company will work with the city in obtaining old tires located in Gary, he said, although he noted the tires need to be "somewhat clean."

According to Shirk, emissions would be low, and the facility would have to obtain a permit from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. He also indicated there would not be much noise created by the equipment used at the plant.

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Ed has been with The Times since January 2014. He previously covered government affairs for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers in Florida. Prior to Scripps, he was with the Chicago Regional Bureau of Copley News Service.