Commodore 64 computers, Atari Inc. game systems and console televisions used to be things of the past. Michael S. Keough encounters this electronic nostalgia every day, and then he shreds it.
Mr. Keough is president and founder of E-Structors Inc. electronic recyclers, an Elkridge, Md., company that recycles more than 16 million pounds of electronics a year - electronics that would otherwise end up in landfills. His intense devotion to the environment is one reason why the Greater Washington Board of Trade last week named the 43-year-old Annapolis native its Entrepreneur of the Year.
“We had several great nominees, but [Mr. Keough] had the most well-rounded and successful company,” said Nicole Tarnogursky, the board’s manager of professional development programs. “He’s in the niche that we wanted to highlight, and he has had great success and performance. He’s a real pioneer in a new space and a new industry.”
Although the award was in his name, the 1987 University of Maryland graduate attributes his success to the hard work of his employees.
“We have a terrific team of strategic advisers that are helping us grow the business,” Mr. Keough said. “We also have a fabulous group of employees that work with us that share the vision and the excitement and make it happen every day.”
The Board of Trade weighed six criteria in its selection process: character, work force, growth, innovation, involvement and resiliency.
Mr. Keough helped demonstrate his involvement in the community by developing a relationship with the Linwood Center Inc., an Ellicott City, Md., nonprofit that provides services for children and adults with autism.
E-Structors provides job training for young adults with autism and also supplies the Linwood Center store Good Deals Great Stuff with a lot of used electronics to help the organization raise money.
Mr. Keough’s company used to get by in an 18,000-square-foot facility but moved in August to a 100,000-square-foot building to handle its growing business. The company now has 50 employees but has plenty of room to expand with demand.
“With the space that we have now, we have more room to add new equipment for further processing so we can handle higher volumes of material,” Mr. Keough said. “We expect to double, not only in revenue but also in volume next year.”
Mr. Keough created E-Structors in 2003 as a spinoff from his original company, Integrated Waste Analysts Inc., a recycling business he founded in 1996.
E-Structors serves municipal, corporate and federal clients, and the company is hoping to expand its reach in the federal market next year.
Mr. Keough hopes the Board of Trade’s recognition of his work will help expand his company’s presence in the D.C. marketplace, a potentially lucrative niche that E-Structors has had difficulty promoting because its government clients want to remain confidential.
“We try to keep a low profile because we are a secure solution, and a lot of our clients don’t want a lot of fanfare around what we do,” Mr. Keough said. “Having this extra exposure will help us utilize that exposure and gain new business.”
Information security is a priority for E-Structors. When the company receives a hard drive, it is run through a shredder to ensure that no data can ever be recovered from it.
In addition to recycling electronics, the company provides secure document shredding.
With confidential information all over the facility, E-Structors takes precautions to keep documents and hard drives secure. Cameras keep an eye on workers, and every exit in the building has an alarm. The building also features “trapping” areas that can be locked down in event of a security breach.
E-Structors is adamant in its mission to recycle and to be an advocate for the environment. Every electronic device that comes in is broken down and separated so that nothing goes to waste.
Pieces are sorted automatically as the electronics are shredded. Circuit boards are removed and sent to smelters to harvest the bits of gold and copper inside.
Mr. Keough said his company is one of the few that has the technological means to break down glass and remove harmful materials from electronic screens. E-Structors removes the hazardous lead and sells the used glass to Samsung Group instead of dumping the screens in landfills, where the lead could contaminate groundwater.
“As the green revolution continues to embed itself in corporate America, we make sure that we continue to provide solutions and to be a provider for a lot of the things that will happen,” Mr. Keough said. “It’s a shame that only about 10 percent of electronics get recovered for recycling. The rest is either in storage or in landfills.”