OmniSource was born during the pursuit of a dream—the American Dream, which has attracted so many to these shores with promises of freedom, opportunity, and prosperity.
Escaping the chaos of revolution and civil war, Irving Rifkin, still just a teenager, emigrated from Russia to America in 1920. He came alone, virtually penniless. He didn't speak English, but he quickly learned enough to work and provide for himself and later, a growing family.
After two decades in New York, Rifkin and his family struck out for western Ohio, where, after a year, he started his own business dealing in all sorts of scrap materials: metals, paper, glass, and rags. He even used his stake-bed truck to offer roadside emergency service. As his business grew, Irving took on a partner, his brother-in-law Irving Walters.
In 1943, when the war effort made recycling a national priority, Rifkin and Walters bought their first scrap yard on Clinton Street in Fort Wayne, Indiana. They called their new venture Superior Iron & Metal. Competition was fierce, but the business prospered. Fort Wayne was home to several companies that supplied the military, and those companies generated a great many scrap materials. Rifkin and Walters later invested in scrap-processing equipment to further their endeavors.
Rifkin's son Leonard joined the company in 1956. With Leonard's expertise and his ability to create strategic relationships with customers and banks alike, the company weathered some tough times in the early 1960s.
Late in the 1960s, the company ventured into the trash-removal business, including establishing a revolutionary recycling facility to sort items that could be reclaimed. The company sold its trash-removal and recycling interests in 1973 to focus on expanding its scrap business.
Expansion meant acquisition. Beginning in the mid-'70s, the company began to expand significantly by buying a large number of scrap-processing facilities and increasing its presence across the Midwest. In the '70s and '80s, Leonard Rifkin's three sons—Danny, Rick, and Marty—joined the company.
In 1983 the company was officially renamed OmniSource, and by 1990 OmniSource had become a national force in the metals-recycling industry. That was also the year that the company pioneered a new concept, scrap management, with Chrysler Corporation as its initial client. Scrap management in which OmniSource manages all aspects of collecting, handling, and buying the scrap generated by a manufacturer, has since become a widely applied concept in the scrap industry.
In addition to its aggressive approach to growth through acquisitions, OmniSource in recent years has also pioneered new technologies in the recovery of valuable metals from recycled scrap materials. In 1995, OmniSource founded Recovery Technologies, a heavy-media processing facility in Fort Wayne. In 1998, OmniSource established Superior Aluminum Alloys, a secondary-aluminum-smelting company in New Haven, Indiana.
OmniSource played an important role in the birth of Steel Dynamics in the early 1990s. SDI became OmniSource's parent company in 2007. As a wholly owned subsidiary, OmniSource continues to provide a large portion of the ferrous resources SDI uses to make new high-quality steel.
In October 2007 Steel Dynamics, Inc., bought OmniSource Corporation from the Rifkin family for approximately $1.1 billion, including cash, stock, and the assumption of debt. OmniSource had been an initial investor after SDI was founded in 1993, and for a period of time served as an exclusive agent to supply the nascent steel company with ferrous scrap, the primary material used in its steelmaking operations.
Today, as a part of SDI, OmniSource has grown through acquisitions and new ventures in the Midwest and in the South. OmniSource currently collects or processes ferrous and nonferrous scrap at more than 70 facilities in the United States, including the operation of 11 automotive shredders. OmniSource has the processing capacity to recycle 7 million tons per year of ferrous scrap and 1 billion pounds of nonferrous metals. It operates shredders in the Midwest and Southeastern United States.