SCORE Awards: Outstanding Green Small Business

REINHOLDS, Pa. ( TheStreet) -- Terry Weaver says caring for the environment goes back to his days growing up on the family farm.

Back then, he says, his family's livelihood depended on caring for the land, air and water.

He brought this mentality into his professional life, forming Agri Marketing, otherwise known as USA Gypsum, in 1998.

The company partners with local contractors and manufacturers to collect construction drywall trimmings that would have been sent to landfills. It then recycles the scrap into natural gypsum products, a so-called soil amendment (essentially fertilizer) that is sold to farmers, homeowners and others that can be used on lawns, gardens and farms.

"The gypsum provides a low cost remedy for acid, sodic, and erosion prone soils. The benefits are obvious -- discarded drywall is recycled into useful products instead of going to a landfill, and the output results in reduced costs to farmers and building contractors," according to USA Gypsum's profile on SCORE's website.

USA Gypsum has dedicated itself to opportunities that respect the triple bottom line: social prosperity, environmental stewardship and profitability, making generous monthly donations to help underserved communities, including the Water Street Mission and micro-lender World Vision Micro, SCORE says.

"SCORE applauds the efforts by USA Gypsum to run a successful small business that is environmentally conscious, recycling used drywall to prevent landfills from overflowing," SCORE CEO Ken Yancey says. "It is small businesses like USA Gypsum that achieve success while preventing pollution and useless waste in their community."

Winning SCORE's Outstanding Green Small Business award (SCORE is the Small Business Administration's partner organization designed to mentor entrepreneurs), USA Gypsum is the sixth of seven 2012 winners to be profiled by TheStreet. SCORE celebrated the winners at its fourth annual awards gala in New Orleans on August 16.

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TheStreet recently spoke with USA Gypsum's president Terry Weaver.

Why is being a green business important today, and important to our economy?

Weaver: The recycling of obsolete and discarded materials is nearly as old as humankind itself. While we do not go back quite that far, my commitment to improving the environment goes back to my boyhood days growing up on a family farm where our livelihood depended on caring for the land, air and water.

Drywall recycling grew out of that farm background when we realized that drywall was primarily the mineral gypsum and 20% was wasted during construction. Local farmers were purchasing gypsum which was being mined in Nova Scotia. This was in 1998 before being "Green" was popular. Our society simply cannot afford to continue landfilling valuable raw materials that can be economically reclaimed.

How have you been able to finance your business and tell us why you chose that route?

Weaver: Initially USA Gypsum was funded internally, using equipment vendors and receivable factoring. We did this because we were not able to obtain bank loans with acceptable terms. SCORE helped us to produce a loan package that led to proposals by all five banks approached. The financing we obtained lowered our interest rates and provided capital needed for growth.

How has the company been hurt by the recession? What measures did you take to ensure its resiliency?

Weaver: The downturn in construction beginning in 2008 reduced our volume of raw materials, which are drywall scraps. We aggressively marketed to a larger geographic area using print advertising, email marketing, direct mailing and a new website. USA Gypsum also developed additional products for our end markets. The result was continued growth.

What are your growth plans?

Weaver: We are in the design and zoning stage for a new facility. The new plant will be more efficient and allow us to increase volume. We are also funding university research of new products.

What has been the biggest lesson you've learned as a small business?

Weaver: It is all about people. Customers, employees, vendors and business contacts have all contributed to growth at USA Gypsum. We strive to honor this contribution by treating them with integrity and giving back to the community and those less fortunate. A great example of giving back is our SCORE mentor, Lou Davenport, who is donating his time and vast experience to help us succeed.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to: Laurie.Kulikowski@thestreet.com.

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