Fourteen sites were visited and examined. The choice of Purified Metal Company (PMC) finally fell on Delfzijl. And so from 2020, the first company in the world with an environmentally friendly and economically viable method of recycling asbestos-contaminated steel scrap into new raw materials for the steel industry will be located there.
They worked together at a large steel production company in the west of the country. There, Jan Henk Wijma, Nathalie van der Poel and Bert Bult were approached one day by a trader who wanted to sell, at a remarkably low price, steel scrap. Steel scrap contaminated with asbestos, as it would soon turn out.
They did not address it. However, it did make them aware that the contaminated material is unsaleable and therefore dumped. For indeed, in the Netherlands alone large quantities of asbestos-contaminated steel become available every year.
Some eighty thousand tons on average, once used in buildings, homes, trains, ships and industrial plants, among others. Cleaning contaminated steel scrap is difficult and costly. For that reason, almost all of it disappears into underground landfills. We shouldn't want that, the trio thought more than seven years ago. Why not come up with a safe and responsible solution?
Meanwhile, the idea of those days has grown into a true company: Purified Metal Company, or PMC for short. 'We have developed a new and patented process with which contaminated steel can be recycled into a high-quality raw material for steel manufacturers,' explains general director Jan Henk Wijma. 'A circular process, built entirely from existing techniques from different industries, that destroys the asbestos fiber so it no longer poses a danger to people and the environment.'
In the search for a suitable location for a factory, in 2014, NOM Foreign Direct Investment also came into the picture. After all, NOM's team that focuses on attracting (foreign) investment has a wealth of knowledge about business locations in the Northern Netherlands.
'Based on the criteria set, we can quickly provide a shortlist of the best possible business locations,' says Sander Oosterhof, manager of Foreign Direct Investment and Business Development. 'Moreover, because of our large network, we can put companies in the relevant location in touch with relevant parties. And that is exactly what happened in the case of PMC.'
Head and shoulders
A total of fourteen possible sites, spread throughout the Netherlands, were visited and investigated. In the end, Amsterdam and Delfzijl remained. The North Groningen port city was deliberately chosen. But what exactly was the deciding factor?
'Delfzijl just stood out head and shoulders above the rest,' Jan Henk stresses. 'Because there is sufficient space, sufficient electricity and sufficient labor supply. But especially also because the agencies in the region, such as Groningen Seaports, the province of Groningen and the municipality of Delfzijl, cooperate excellently with each other.
The lines of communication are very short. Not unimportant, because as an entrepreneur you encounter many things that you had not thought of beforehand or that you have not yet solved. In other regions we noticed that we were sometimes sent from pillar to post.'
Time-consuming and intensive
Now that a suitable location had been found, it was time for the next step: making the factory fundable. 'A time-consuming and intensive process,' Jan Henk reflects. 'We approached NOM to participate in funding the project.
To assess the business case and manage the decision-making process within NOM, Ruud van Dijk and Veronique Jeunhomme, respectively Investment manager and Investment analyst at NOM Finance, were called in. Their efforts were not without results. NOM was the first to decide to finance.
'Partly because of this first step, in addition to Jansen Recycling Group of Dordrecht, a shareholder from the very beginning, NIBC Bank, the province of Groningen, Groningen Seaports and the GROEIfonds of the Economic Board Groningen also decided to invest in PMC.
A subsidy was also made available from the Regional Investment Support Scheme Groningen (RIG). BNG Bank and Rabobank Utrecht en Omstreken complemented the funding. 'We ourselves were quickly convinced of the quality of the plan and the way these entrepreneurs were working on it,' says Ruud van Dijk. 'Everything had been thought through, down to the smallest details. The whole story was just very well put together. That's why we also managed to win over other financiers.'
DELFZIJL SIMPLY STOOD OUT HEAD AND SHOULDERS ABOVE THE REST, PARTICULARLY BECAUSE THE AUTHORITIES IN THE REGION, SUCH AS GRONINGEN SEAPORTS, THE PROVINCE OF GRONINGEN AND THE MUNICIPALITY OF DELFZIJL, COOPERATE EXCELLENTLY WITH EACH OTHER
One such funder, as mentioned, is the GROEIfonds. Investment manager Sytze Hellinga of the GROEIfonds knew little hesitation in putting money into PMC, he says. "We decided to participate at an early stage. PMC meets all the criteria we set.
First of all, it is an innovative and sustainable company with a good management team and a substantiated business plan. It offers a safe and circular solution to prevent pollution and save half of CO2 on an annual basis compared to the regular process.
In addition, it also provides 68 new jobs. PMC can therefore rightly be called an asset for the region.' Last July, work began on the construction of the plant on the Oosterwierum, between the water and the solar park, in Delfzijl. It is expected to be handed over to PMC in working order in the summer of 2020.