Gold makes the world go round, according to Phillip Kennedy.
It's hot and humid and the tour participants are sweating as Kennedy holds up a small square piece of green plastic, covered in tiny knobs and buttons and streaks of gold.
He's plucked the circuit board from a square cardboard bin filled with a thousand more of the same, a bin that comes up to his waist and could fit three or four men of his size.
He calls it urban mining- extracting the gold, copper, aluminum and other precious metals and raw materials from used electronics.
It's what he's founded his company, Premier Surplus, on: keeping electronic waste out of landfills through recycling what most people wouldn't know what to do with.
He's divided the 125,000 square foot former Nordson building, where his company moved in April, into three plants: Plant One is where inbound and outbound electronics come through for sorting, destined to be resold or disassembled; Plant Two, the "indoor scrapyard," is where low-grade items are shredded and finished products, such as copper wire and ac adapters, are stored; and Plant Three, where the high end material is dismantled and the asset management program is located.
It's in Plant Three where he shows the group the box of circuit boards that sell for $5 a pound, due to their gold content.
"Circuit boards drive this whole department," Kennedy said. "They have to be segregated for precious metal recovery- gold dictates this market. As long as gold stays strong, we're good. If gold drops down, we have to adjust our prices with our customers. Our customers produce e-waste, we purchase the stuff to run through our departments and then sell off the raw commodities- we make our money off the raw commodities."
After the tour, the group headed off to a BBQ lunch, all part of the company's July 19 grand opening with the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce, where Kennedy and his wife Stephanie, the CFO of Premier Surplus, were the stars of the show.
"The road to where we are now has not been easy," Kennedy said, addressing a crowd of well over 100 people before the ribbon cutting ceremony that kicked off the event. "We have all spent several years building the company to what it is today: a highly successful, growing business. We have continued to adapt to different economic challenges and have navigated to prosperity. The facility in front of me has a tremendous opportunity for Premier Surplus as it continues its yearly growth of 20 percent."
Kennedy started the company out of his garage in 2011, and the business has shot up from there, necessitating several moves: from the one-car garage to a house, to a 20,000 square foot facility, to the 47,500 square foot warehouse in Ball Ground the company moved from in the spring.
Kennedy made sure to thank his father, Premier Surplus management team and 64 employees for their hard work during the move and opening the building ahead of schedule.
Kennedy purchased the building in January and worked for four months to get the building, which was built in three phases starting in 1993, updated with LED lights and more efficient heating and air.
The building had sat vacant for three years, waiting for a company that could make use of the specific layout and copious office space, when Kennedy bought it for $3.4 million.
At the ribbon cutting ceremony, Chamber of Commerce President Christie Haynes stated how much the chamber had been looking forward to the building being occupied.
"We all just wanted someone to come in that was going to be a community partner and really employ people here, and when we found out about Premier Surplus we were thrilled... to sit down and hear their story, it really is the true entrepreneurial spirit and I really can't think of a better example than y'all starting in a garage," Haynes said.