On a roll: Valley Tire Recycling wins Startup Texas Pitch Summit

Jun. 21—A new firm that plans to grind up old tires into marketable rubber crumbs is the winner of the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation's 2022 Startup Texas Pitch Summit, beating out eight other finalists in the process.

The recognition comes with a $25,000 award, which Valley Tire Recycling CEO Jaime A. Diez said will be used to help pay for Texas Commission on Environmental Quality permits, to install tire-shredding machinery already purchased and housed in 20,000 square feet of warehouse space on South Padre Island Highway, and for operational expenses.

The company's other principals are Diez's uncle Andres Garcia and grandfather, also named Andres Garcia. As such, it's a "three-Andres" venture, since Andres is Diez's middle name. The tiny rubber granules that Valley Tire Recycling will begin producing in about three months have a wide array of uses — asphalt roads, rubber flooring, sports infields, playgrounds, insulation products and cart tires, for instance.

There will be a $1-per-tire recycling fee for each passenger vehicle tire brought in, while large commercial tires will cost $5 each to drop off. Diez said the fees are competitive with landfill tire-disposal fees and that he expects the operation to process roughly one ton of tires per hour, a ton equaling about 70 tires. Passenger tires should account for about 85% of that and commercial tires 15%, Diez said.

He said illegally dumped tires are a big problem and that some resacas are full of them, while recycling tires makes a lot more sense than taking them to the dump.

"A bunch of material and energy inputs went into making these tires and it's kind of a waste to just landfill them," Diez said. "So we're able to do something with that otherwise waste material that that we can then sell on the market, and we're able to bring in money to the city while also fixing an environmental public health hazard. ... For now it'll just be storage and processing, but we hope that as soon as we expand we'll also start doing some collection services."

The next closest tire-recycling facilities are in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, and the Austin-San Antonio area, he said, noting that such facilities tend to be "pretty regionalized" since transporting old tires is difficult and expensive. Diez, who's also running for Texas Railroad Commission, said that with the start of operations just a few months away, winning the pitch summit couldn't have come at a better time.

"We thought it was a good time to start doing some marketing," he said. "When we won we were ecstatic. We didn't expect it."

This year's BCIC pitch summit, held June 16, was the third annual event but the first to be held live due to the pandemic. The judging panel was composed of last year's pitch summit winner, Keeisi Caballero, physicist and co-founder of Permittivity; David Ortiz executive director for the Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center; Rolando Gonzalez, owner of Team Logic IT Rio Grande Valley; and Griselda Munoz, senior human resources manager for Creative Liquid Holdings.

Nathan Burkhart, BCIC director of small business development, said "it was great to showcase our local entrepreneurs, as well as our international and out-of-state companies utilizing our soft landing, incubation, and resources that make up our programming at the eBridge Center."

BCIC President and CEO Cori Pena said the organization's mission "is to enhance quality of life through innovative and equitable economic development initiatives."

"One of those initiatives is to promote an open and inclusive ecosystem for all entrepreneurs, big or small," she said. "This pitch summit is for those starting new business ventures or expanding their business. We could not have done this summit without the collaboration of our UTRGV Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Center partners. This was truly a team effort and it showed last Thursday night."