Many Hendersonians are unaware that an industry called Audubon Metals LLC operates here at all.
If they do happen to catch a glimpse of its plant located just off U.S. 60-West, they might see it only as a big building with "little mountains of scrap metal," according to Steve Rapagnani.
In fact, "It's probably one of the greenest companies around," said Rapagnani, vice president of operations for the nearby Gibbs Die Casting Corp.
Audubon Metals is also a growing company that, with 195 employees, is one of the largest industrial employers here, according to the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, and the plant and its workers are involved in numerous civic and charitable activities.
For its economic and civic contributions to the community, Audubon Metals on Thursday was named the Henderson Chamber of Commerce's 2012 Industry of the Year.
The company, which opened in 1996, buys nonferrous metals from scrap yards across the eastern third of the United States. The plant washes, separates, melts and re-alloys second aluminum ingot, much of which is used at Gibbs, which like Audubon Metals is owned by Evansville-based Koch Enterprises Inc.
"They're one of our major suppliers," Rapagnani said.
"One of their values is to be best in class," something Audubon Metals pursues by providing training to employees through Henderson Community College, the Northwest Kentucky Training Consortium and Dale Carnegie, he said.
The company and its team members "give back to the community," Rapagnani said. "They're one of the leading participants in the United Way campaign," to which the employees pledged and gave more than $50,000, not counting the company's matching funds.
"Team members have participated in the March of Dimes walk for many years, and in 2012, were awarded the No. 1 corporate team," he said.
Other community involvement includes the Junior Diabetes Research Foundation Walk at Holiday World, the Chilly Hilly Run for Junior Achievement, the Henderson Lions Club Auction, food drives, the Evansville Ballet, Big River/Big Sister and the Susan G. Komen Bowl for the Cure.
Audubon Metals sponsors various school and community children's sports, and participated in the Back to School Blitz for Henderson County School. Last fall, employees participated in student mentoring and career programs at local schools.
Last Christmas, plant employees raffled tickets to raise more than $5,000 to help a temporary employee's young son who had just undergone open heart surgery.
Audubon Metals is a significant supporter of local businesses, spending millions of dollars each year with businesses such as Brenntag Mid-South, Home Oil and Gas, Huff Technologies, Galloway Electric, Hazex Construction, Park Machine, D&G Trucking, Business Equipment, Spartan Staffing, Sureway, Papa Johns, Fast Print, Quad City, J&B BBQ and D&M Grocery.
The company's president and general manager, Jim Butkus, is active in the Henderson Chamber, serving on its board of directors and as chairman of existing industry and business development and on the Industrial Liaison Committee.
"Audubon Metals is a labor of love," Butkus said in accepting the company's award. "We have a slogan: 'No. 1 is a team thing.' We're only successful because of our team."
A self-described transplanted Yankee, he said he "found a tremendous work ethic and a desire to learn and grow" and give back to the community among the company's workers.
"We've been dealt a tremendous hand," Butkus said. "This community gave us good cards."