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Bumper crop in Northbridge; Business collects, restores auto part.

Byline: Bill Fortier

NORTHBRIDGE - Boston Bumper Supply Inc. has an interesting business model.

The small company, located inside the former Whitin Machine Works in Whitinsville, collects bumpers from about 300 auto body shops, primarily in Central Massachusetts.

The company's four full-time workers can restore about 30 percent of the bumpers to the point where they can be sold to auto body shops for use in repairs.

The 70 percent of the bumpers that can't be restored go to the Blackstone Valley Regional Recycling Center in Blackstone, where they are turned into little black plastic pellets that eventually become - among other things - drainage pipes, computer cases and refrigerator handles.

Handwriting on a large blackboard in the Boston Bumper conference room says the company recycled 44,000 automobile bumpers between 2009 and 2011. According to owner Timothy C. Lewis, who conducted a tour of the business last week for state and local officials, that is the equivalent of 22 million plastic bottles.

"It's a win-win for auto body shops and the environment," he said.

Mr. Lewis said auto body companies are anxious to get rid of damaged bumpers at no cost, and recycling them means they aren't taking up diminishing space in area landfills. Plus, the auto body shops can purchase refurbished bumpers from Boston Bumper at about half the price they would pay if they bought them from an auto company.

Mr. Lewis is hopeful he's going to be a lot busier. He said he's been talking to the Massachusetts State Police about collecting bumpers from their vehicles that have been damaged, and selling them back once they're repaired. He said if those negotiations are fruitful, it could mean 200 more bumpers coming to the company each month.

The contract also could mean another 10 full-time jobs, he said.

While he knows bumpers, Mr. Lewis said he needed some training on the financial side of running his business.

He said he has been taking a series of business courses offered by the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce through a grant from the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation.

The training would make Mr. Lewis' business eligible to receive grant funding, which could help him expand.

During a conversation at the end of last week's tour, MGCC loan officer Robert H. Jones said among the information the state agency needs are tax returns, financial information sheets and business projections for 2012, 2013, and 2014. Jeannie Hebert, the chamber's president and chief executive officer, said Mr. Lewis is taking the courses to get "bank ready" if and when he seeks financial assistance.

"Boston Bumper is at a crossroads," financial consultant Nancy Burgess, who has been working on the company's finances, told MGCC loan officers Jose Luis Rojas Villarreal and Mr. Jones.

Boston Bumper has a 5,000-square-foot production area on the first floor of the mill building and a storage area of about 50,000 square feet on the third and fourth floors, where about 12,000 bumpers are kept.

The company has seen its sales increase about 31 percent this year, Mr. Lewis said.

After the tour, he said he is looking into the possibility of getting financial assistance from the Recycling Loan Fund administered by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Mr. Jones said Boston Bumper is the kind of business his agency was created to help.

"Mr. Lewis certainly knows what he's doing," Mr. Jones said. "I'm very, very impressed."

Mr. Jones said he enjoys coming to Central Massachusetts because many of the state's most promising small businesses are in this part of the state.

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: Timothy C. Lewis, owner of Boston Bumper Supply Inc., walks through his stock of reconditioned factory bumpers at his Whitinsville business.

PHOTOG: T&G Staff/TOM RETTIG
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Title Annotation:BUSINESS MATTERS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 24, 2012
Words:623
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