Scrap company flourishing along the river

From left: Alex Arroyo, operations manager at Morris Iron & Steel; co-owners Rebecca Greller and Ron Greller; and City Councilman Bobby Henon.

Morris Iron & Steel owner Ron Greller has a simple explanation as to why his business is doing so well.

“There’s always a market for scrap,” he said.

Morris is a family-owned, fourth-generation company with office space at 7345 Milnor St. It was founded by Greller’s grandfather in 1935.

In 1976, the company bought a 25-acre yard in the rear of its headquarters, with an official address of 5200 Bleigh Ave.

A couple of years ago, Morris took a giant step forward by buying 71 acres along the Delaware River at 7777 State Road so it could load massive amounts of scrap onto barges.

Morris bought the land from a bank for $10 million, spent $2 million in improvements and trash removal and is hoping for a state grant to fix the 1940s-era piers.

Most of that State Road land was zoned residential in 2005, as developers planned to build 1,700 housing units along with an 80- to 100-unit hotel, a health and wellness center, a 200-boat public marina, offices, recreational facilities and retail space. Mayor John Street even appeared at a news conference touting the proposal.

But riverfront living never really took off in the Northeast, and Greller commends City Councilman Bobby Henon for rezoning the property for industrial use.

City Councilman Bobby Henon and tugboat mate Cory Zielinski

Henon, a big fan of industry of any kind, visited the Morris operation last week, and was impressed with the private wholesaler’s operation.

There are about 125 employees, most of whom work in the yard. Morris had been eyeing a move to Delaware, Virginia or North Carolina before Henon’s rezoning opened up the waterfront ground.

Morris does not accept scrap from peddlers with shopping carts, only from scrap dealers.

The company takes in about 250,000 tons of scrap a year. When the auto and manufacturing industries do well, so does Morris.

“We’re a mine above the ground,” said Greller, crediting his dad Stan with coming up with that analogy.

Morris owns 60 railroad cars for transport and occasionally uses trucks.

But the vast majority of scrap is loaded onto barges. In the last two years, Morris has filled 85 barges.

On average, each barge carries 2,800 tons of scrap. A barge can carry the same amount of scrap that would fill 35 to 40 railroad cars and well over 100 trucks.

It takes eight to 10 hours to fill a barge, and then a tugboat leads the way. It takes two days to deliver the barge to North Carolina, home of the giant steel company Nucor.

Morris takes pride being pollution-free through all of its recycling and processing.

“We’re completely green,” Greller said. ••