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E-waste? Intechra filling void by recycling old tech

Last November, Jackson-based Intechra and Columbus, Ohio-based Retrobox united to create the largest full-service information technology (IT) asset disposition company in the U.S.

The move was a natural next step for Intechra CEO Chip Slack, who founded Votum Consulting Group, a Jackson-based management consulting firm, in late 2000 to provide strategic finance, project management, organizational performance and revenue enhancement strategies services to the emerging growth community.

“As we did consulting, we saw that the tremendous growth in sales of technology would yield growth in the disposal business,” said Slack. “When we looked closer, we noticed there were significant environmental issues that needed to be managed. Data issues were a concern. We also found the industry was fragmented, with no big national player. We set out to build that company.”

Slack was on the right track. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans will dispose of 100 million personal computers this year. Because of federal privacy laws, such as the 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act governing finance, and the 1996 Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) governing healthcare, and environmental legislation in 40 states addressing e-waste, national and multinational companies are paying close attention to regulations governing the disposal of IT assets.

“Retired IT assets are fraught with data security and environmental issues,” said Intechra COO Cindy Brannon, who served as general manager for Compaq’s $350-million remarketing and remanufacturing division before joining the firm. “Intechra is able to offer customers a level of confidence thanks to liability indemnification, guaranteed security and disposition reporting for all IT assets.”

Merging the two companies immediately broadened their scope because Intechra sells primarily through computer manufacturers and wholesalers while RetroBox sells directly to Fortune 1000 companies. Among the services Intechra provides: data destruction, which indemnifies owners by overwriting and erasing data on hard drives using Department of Defense standards; remarketing, which generates revenue for clients from retired assets; and environment recycling, which eliminates clients’ environmental risks by extracting all recyclable materials from IT assets and keeping toxic materials found in those assets out of landfills. Last year, the company kept approximately 10,000 tons of electronic waste out of landfills by remarketing or recycling it.

“We have a zero landfill policy,” emphasized Slack. “Also, we will not export any non-working asset. That’s important because there’s precious metal value in computers, and there are still large numbers of computers being exported to third world countries, where unsafe, environmentally harmful methods are used to extract that metal. We disassemble the computers and ground up into small pieces what is not usable, separating the metal from the plastic. We sell the plastics. And we also sell the materials containing the metal to a smelter, who returns the material back to its original metallic state.”

In fact, Intechra was honored for its innovative recycling use: ground-up circuit boards were later used to make plaques for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pollution Prevention Awards.

Roughly 30% of the units Intechra receives are resold as working units to customers such as Ingram Micro, the world’s largest distributor of computers. In 2005, roughly 100,000 computers and laptops were repaired or resold for reuse.

Intechra, which also offers equipment testing and cleaning and settlement reporting services, is on track to top $44 million in revenues in 2006. Its client list includes Southwest Airlines, BAE Systems, Pier 1 Imports and Graybar Electric Co. By year-end, the company plans to double the number of its centers from three in Dallas, Phoenix and Columbus (Ohio) to six — two in the U.S. and one in Canada. The combined company has sales offices in 10 cities.

“Some people believe this will become a $30-billion-a-year industry,” said Slack.. “We have a very significant growth plan that’s going nicely.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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