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Family scrap business Cohen promotes recycling

Cohen is rebranding itself as a recycling company.

Middletown-based Cohen is best known as the largest scrap metal processor in the Cincinnati region.

But scrap yards and the scrap industry have gotten a bad rap in recent years due to rising metal thefts. Cohen officials want to set their company apart by highlighting that their business is really recycling. It has a positive impact on the environment, said Adam Dumes, a member of the family that owns Cohen and one of its managers.

Cohen’s business keeps material out of a landfill that’s recyclable, Dumes said.

“We have always been a scrap metal recycler,” he said. “Our business is recycling. We’re taking old product and we’re turning it around to make new product.”

The fourth generation family-run business mainly recycles metal including copper, brass, aluminum and steel, as well as automobiles. Cohen also started recycling electronics in 2010. It can recycle different grades of paper and plastic.

The company now does business as “Cohen” or “Cohen Recycling.” It was formerly known as Cohen Brothers.

Brothers Ken and Neil are the third generation. Their grandfather Mose started the business with his brother Phil in 1924. Neil and Ken’s father Wilbur, 90, is chairman and chief executive officer of Cohen.

Dumes is Ken and Neil’s nephew. He and his cousins Jill Cohen (Neil’s daughter) and Andy Cohen (Ken’s son) make up the fourth generation.

Cohen accumulates and processes various material into batches of like product — cutting it to size or densifying it — to the point it can be shipped to a mill and used as a raw material to make a new product, President Ken Cohen said.

Customers from whom Cohen buys scrap material consist of manufacturers, contractors, the demolition industry, electricians, plumbers, small machine shops and individuals.

Consumers who buy processed material from Cohen include steel mills and foundries.

Cohen’s headquarters and main processing facility are located on Woodlawn Avenue in Middletown. There are also 20 satellite locations in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio including Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and Springfield. Additionally, Cohen has the joint venture Cumberland Scrap Processors in Russellville, Ky.

Cohen’s various sites process more than 1.25 million tons of material a year.

The Butler County recycling company is listed as the Tristate’s 17th largest privately-held company for generating $568 million in revenues in 2011, according to the Deloitte Cincinnati USA 100 annual ranking.

Cohen has been in the process of rebranding since 2011, Dumes said.

The changes mean the company is investing in new equipment to process more material, and more varieties of material, in more locations, they said. It also means they’ve been gradually hiring more people to do that. Cohen employs approximately 500 workers, Ken said.

In the last year, Cohen also changed the names of its 20 recycling centers and other locations to all include the family name, Dumes said. For example, the names of its Hamilton and Middletown locations are now “Cohen Hamilton” and “Cohen Middletown.” Before, the Hamilton location was named Hamilton Scrap Processors, for example.

Signage, advertising and letterhead have changed to bear the name “Cohen.”

“We’re really not a scrap metal company anymore,” Ken said.

“We’re a recycling company and we’re recycling all different grades of material from scrap metal to electronics to automobiles, certain grades of paper, certain grades of plastic,” Ken said.

Cohen operates within a 150 mile radius of Middletown. The market is saturated with competitors, Ken said.

“We have competition everywhere so we’re competing for the product,” Ken said. The company was rebranded the way it is because “we want those people to come to us.”

“Once the saturation point is reached, the amount of the investment to go in and take business away from other people doesn’t justify the cost of doing that, which is the reason why we’ve moved into different product lines because with the saturation that we have, the different product lines add volume and add activity to our existing locations and allow those individual locations to grow,” Ken said.

The move to be a broader recycling company and not just a scrap metal company sets them apart, Neil Cohen said.

“We want to be doing things that other people aren’t doing. We want to brand ourselves in a different way. We want to make the customer experience special, something somebody wants to continue to do,” Neil said.

“We want them to be greeted by somebody and we want them to be able to drive through a clean facility. We want them to get the help that they need and feel like they had a good experience when they leave,” Neil said. “Those are the kinds of things that we think make us unique.”

Also, the new focus on recycling broadens Cohen’s customer base. Electronics, for example, is one material that appeals to all demographics, Dumes said.

Cohen in 2012 received third-party R2 Solutions certification for responsible e-waste recycling practices.

“Only certain people have truckloads of scrap metal. Only certain industries or manufacturing plants generate scrap metal,” Dumes said.

“But every business and every individual has obsolete electronics or will have at some point,” he said.

“We’re looking at financial institutions, we’re looking at health care, all these different industries that don’t make a product necessarily so they don’t have scrap metal, but they have offices and they have technology and people in their houses have old cell phones and old computers and they need a way to recycle that stuff because it’s hazardous and it’s data bearing,” he said. “We want to be an outlet for that.”

Cohen operates multiple Middletown locations including its main processing center and headquarter offices at 1723 Woodlawn Ave.; and a recycling center at 3120 S.Verity Pkwy.

In 2011, Cohen expanded and doubled its footprint in Hamilton, opening a new entrance facing Black Street. The Hamilton business was formerly known as Hamilton Scrap Processors, an independent company with common ownership with Cohen. It is now part of the larger Cohen company.

In Dayton, Cohen runs recycling centers on West Third and Valley streets. It also sells auto parts at its 5940 W. Third St., Dayton, facility.

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