Marc Schupan discovers the benefits of bizav
The only regret Marc Schupan has about owning a 1985 Beechcraft King Air C90A is that he didn’t discover the value of business aviation earlier and begin reaping the rewards the King Air has brought to his business and life.
“We started using the King Air four or five years ago, and I wish I would’ve started sooner,” he said. “It’s been a great tool.”
Schupan has done quite well despite being a late-comer to business aviation. He took over his father’s small metals recycling company in 1974 and during the past five decades has grown the business from six employees to more than 500 by diversifying and enlarging its operational footprint. In addition to scrap metal recycling, the Kalamazoo-headquartered Schupan & Sons does business on a national and international level in beverage container recycling and aluminum and plastic sales. The multi-divisional company has 13 locations throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois and more than 12,000 customers across the United States.
Schupan & Sons estimates it ships and recycles about 1 million pounds of metals and plastics a day between all of the operations.
Not the career he intended
While Schupan was studying political science at Michigan State University, his father bought a small nonferrous recycling operation in 1968. “I give him a lot of credit,” Schupan said of his father, Nelson. “He was 48 at the time, had four children, two in college, not a lot of money to invest, but he had ambition and wanted to be his own boss.”
Although Schupan worked there during the summer, he did not plan a career in the industry. Instead, he graduated and began teaching high school history, government and economics while coaching football, basketball and baseball. In July 1974, he decided to take a break from teaching before either going to law school or pursuing a college basketball coaching career. “I agreed to help my father for a year. Three weeks after I started, he died of a stroke at age 53,” he said.
He immediately stepped into the role as CEO and renamed the business Schupan & Sons, Inc. in honor of his father.
Diversification = Growth
“As time went on, we continued to grow and diversify,” Schupan said. “We went from being in the industrial recycling business to the distribution of aluminum, and we also bought a few companies here and there and got involved on the manufacturing side.”
Today the company comprises of three divisions. Schupan Industrial Recycling provides scrap management strategies, collection, processing and sales of ferrous and non-ferrous metals for industry, manufacturing and small businesses. In 2012, the company added another arm to its industrial recycling division that solely collects and processes useable and scrap electronics from customers nationwide. Schupan Aluminum & Plastics Sales distributes new metal and plastic mill component for automotive, medical and office furniture products. In the early 1990s, Schupan Recycling formed when the company got involved with recycling used beverage containers.
“Michigan has a 10-cent deposit on containers and because of that we have well over 90 percent recovery coming back,” Schupan said. “We have a joint venture with a Norwegian company that has the barcode technology, and we put their equipment in over 600 stores in Michigan. We run 16 semis around the clock for pickup service, and they run on natural gas. We operate two processing facilities for plastic, glass and aluminum containers.”
Schupan Recycling is the largest volume independent processor and broker of used beverage containers in the U.S. According to their website, the company has recycled more than 50 billion containers. That includes about 4 million plastic water bottles used by Flint, Michigan, residents amid the recent leaded water crisis. Schupan Recycling is among several companies to donate to the cause of recovering empty bottles in Flint, which does not have curbside collection of recyclables. “We got involved real early to put equipment in and coordinate with other recyclers to make sure that the water bottles, which are non-deposit, didn’t end up in the landfill,” Schupan said.
Giving back to the community has always been a part of Schupan’s personal life and his business model. His company and employees support local United Way organizations through payroll contributions and he encourages employees to get involved by giving them time off to volunteer in their communities. Earlier this year, Schupan received a lifetime achievement award from Big Brothers Big Sisters in Kalamazoo for years of mentoring, serving on the board and making financial contributions. The organization also named its Seth Nelson Schupan Mentoring Center in honor of Schupan’s 23-year-old son who died in an auto accident.
Schupan and his wife of 40 years, Jeanne, have four children ranging in age from 38 to 29, including a daughter and a son who work in the family business.
Finding business aviatiation
Schupan & Sons is headquartered in Kalamazoo, a city in southwest Michigan with limited commercial airline service. The company has several facilities right in Kalamazoo, but also operates 13 locations across four states including major sites in cities like Elkhart, Indiana; Dayton, Ohio; and Toledo, Ohio. That means site visits often required driving around the Great Lakes or flying commercially with multiple stops or both, more often than not.
“The company is located in a market that doesn’t have a lot of airline options. Driving 45 minutes or an hour to Grand Rapids presents a few more options, but it still doesn’t open up the world to you like the King Air does,” pilot Lance Kelsey said.
Visiting a customer in Madison, Wisconsin, from Kalamazoo, for example, would be a six-hour drive around the lake instead of a 35-minute flight in the King Air.
In 2012, a friend and business associate based in Kalamazoo asked Schupan to partner with him on ownership of a 1985 King Air C90A. They formed TCB (Taking Care of Business) Air LLC to jointly own the aircraft that would be operated independently by both companies. In 2014, the other owner sold his business and no longer needed the King Air, so Schupan bought full ownership of the aircraft.
“I really like this airplane, it’s become a great tool,” Schupan said. “The first time we took it to see employees at my Dayton plant, my Toledo plant and then came home the same day with time to still get some work done, I thought, ‘Wow, this is pretty amazing. I should’ve done this a long time ago.’”
Employees at all levels of the company have access to the King Air, and it’s most often used to visit company facilities, meet with customers or to bring customers to Schupan’s facilities.
“It’s allowed us to give more service to our customers,” Schupan said. “It’s impacted our employees, helping to make the work environment better for them. They appreciate the flexibility of knowing if there’s something they have to do, they can and instead of doing one thing you may be able to do three.
“We had a question on some material the other day so we had our customer fly down with us to the mill that was manufacturing the material for us,” Schupan continued. “The King Air has been terrific for building relationships and solving issues in a timely manner.”
The aircraft is based at Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport (AZO) with maintenance provided by Kalamazoo Aircraft. It is owned by Schupan through Green & White LLC (Michigan State school colors) and he contracts with Kelsey of Everley Air Management, LLC to manage and crew the aircraft. Schupan & Sons flies about 100 hours a year and Schupan also uses the King Air for family vacations, to central Florida or fishing trips in northern Ontario, for example.
Green & White LLC dry leases to two other companies that Schupan has a personal or business relationship with, bringing the annual total for the King Air to about 200 hours. They are making the aircraft available to a charter company based in Kalamazoo for additional hours.
The 1985 King Air has 8,600 hours on the airframe and the engines are at 2,200 hours since new.
“When we got the aircraft, it already had the Blackhawk conversion and the Raisbeck performance packages, so it was as performance capable as it’s ever going to be minus getting the new five-blade whisper props,” Kelsey said. “From an avionics standpoint, it has a Garmin GMX200 and two Garmin GNS530 WAAS units. Marc asked if we needed to make any upgrades and my response was that there’s no reason to go to a full glass cockpit because it just looks nicer. We can get into any airport as well as the more modern King Airs and we’re perfectly equipped the way we are.”
Short of winglets, Kelsey said, Schupan’s 1985 model looks the same externally as the models coming off the production line today in Wichita. And, soon, the interior will look factory-fresh as well. Kelsey was scheduled to deliver the airplane to Unique One in Pontiac in August for a full interior refurbishment in the same color scheme offered by Beechcraft.
“Back in the TCB days, the other owner used the airplane for some in-house cargo operations that did put some wear marks in spots,” Kelsey said. “I notice it because I know every nook and cranny of this airplane but most passengers don’t see it. Still, the last time the interior was done was in 1999 and it just looks a little dated. In the charter industry, right or wrong, passengers will associate the maintenance reliability of the airplane with the aesthetic look of the airplane.”
The aircraft is always flown with two pilots: Kelsey, who has 1,050 hours in King Air series aircraft, and often a higher time multi-engine instructor from Kelsey’s alma mater, Western Michigan University College of Aviation.
Typical missions for Schupan & Sons include day trips with two to four passengers traveling 200-300 nautical miles from Kalamazoo, although they also regularly travel as far as Atlanta to meet with Coca-Cola.
“With all of the different modifications that we have, it’s also given us a max gross takeoff weight increase to 10,500 and that allows us six people with day bags and we can still get in and out of essentially any strip in the U.S.,” Kelsey said. “We haven’t found an airport that is too small for the 90. I think that’s part of the allure of this airplane. Anything that’s within a 1,000 nautical mile range circle, throw a dart and if it’s got a runway, we can get there.
“Today we are in a satellite airport of Toledo that I can’t imagine anything bigger than a King Air getting into,” he continued. “It’s put us within five minutes of where our passengers need to be. Even if we were to outgrow this airplane, I don’t see us leaving the King Air family because of the overall useful load and usefulness of the airplane. We always want to have the flexibility to operate with high speeds into the major markets and not be run out of the skies, but also still drop into the small airports that have a 3,000 by 30-foot strip.”