“We recycle the things that people throw away and the people that society sometimes forgets and throws away,” explains Gregg Keesling, the founder and president of RecycleForce, an Indianapolis-based social enterprise that diverts waste from landfills while providing job training and up to six months of transitional employment to citizens returning from incarceration. “Our communities are better when we find ways to engage people coming out of jail or prison in productive activities and give them the opportunity to reacclimate to being a part of the labor force.”
In a Nutshell
What: RecycleForce, an Indianapolis social enterprise that provides workforce development training to citizens returning from incarceration, recently began a construction project to build a new headquarters and electronics recycling facility. In addition to owning their space for the first time, the facility will anchor the revitalization of a blighted industrial property and enable the organization to double both the number of people it hires annually and the volume of electronic waste the organization can process.
Sector: Workforce development
Location: Indianapolis, IN (Rivoli Park)
Size: 112,500 square feet
Cost: $13 million
Funding Sources: $13 million in New Markets Tax Credits (allocated by the Indianapolis Redevelopment CDE, with Valley National Bank as the equity investor); Predevelopment loans from IFF and Partners for the Common Good (totaling $685,000), as well as source loans for the New Markets Tax Credit transaction from IFF ($6,489,600) and Partners for the Common Good ($1,000,000); land donation from the City of Indianapolis
IFF Staff Lead: Andre Gibson, Director of Lending – Indiana and Kentucky
Design: Meticulous Design + Architecture
Construction: Stenz Construction Corporation
Impact: 70 permanent FTE jobs created that will be available to citizens returning from incarceration
Having recently broken ground on a new, $13 million facility that will provide the organization with the opportunity to control its destiny for the first time by owning the building that houses its headquarters and electronics recycling operation, RecycleForce is poised to do far more recycling, both in the literal and figurative sense. When construction is completed and the organization moves into its 112,500-square-foot facility late next year, it will double the volume of electronic waste RecycleForce can process and create the equivalent of 70 full-time jobs for returning citizens.
The project also will increase RecycleForce’s ability to support employees as they re-enter society post-incarceration. Located in a neighborhood where many of its employees live, RecycleForce’s new facility will be connected by bike/walking paths to a new Community Justice Campus nearby. This will make it easier for RecycleForce’s employees to fulfill any post-release obligations, like checking in with a parole officer. Coupled with on-site supports like mental health services and referrals to substance abuse treatment providers, RecycleForce’s new home promises to amplify its already substantial impact.
That means more second chances for returning citizens like Russell Boyd, who earned his first paycheck outside of prison in more than 43 years at RecycleForce after being released from the Indiana Department of Corrections.
“It’s something I earned, and it’s honest money,” Boyd says. “I’m proud because it gives me the feeling that I succeeded in getting where I need to be and it’s helping me to move forward. It’s a good feeling.”
RecycleForce’s new facility will also have broader impact on the community as the first major milestone in a redevelopment of a 55-acre industrial lot on the east side of Indianapolis called Sherman Park. Once a bustling economic hub, the site became blighted in the two decades after the original owner, RCA, sold the property and relocated.
Inside RecycleForce's New Facility
- 7,400 square feet of dedicated space for the disassembly of items like computers and DVD players that contain precious metals that can be re-sold to fund its workforce development programming
- A 5,000-square-foot loading dock
- A 13,000-square-foot shredder room
- 22,000 square feet of office space – much of which it plans to rent out to other organizations to generate revenue and build new and synergistic partnerships.
- A 57,000-square-foot area to house recycled materials
“There weren’t many empty sites where we could build a 100,000-square-foot plus facility, especially in locations that are right in the middle of the community where many of the people that we serve live,” says Keesling. “The location is also within the Indy East Promise Zone, which has unlocked more than $20 million in federal funds for our work over the years.”
After settling on the Sherman Park location, the organization set about assembling the financing needed to build its new facility. When an initial loan from a bank fell through, RecycleForce turned to IFF, which in February of 2019 provided a $685,000 predevelopment loan in partnership with Partners for the Common Good (PCG). PCG is a CDFI headquartered in Washington, D.C. that advances economic justice and opportunity for low-income communities by participating in loans with other CDFIs like IFF. IFF and PCG provided an additional loan of $7.5 million earlier this year as part of a New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) deal, clearing the way for the groundbreaking ceremony held last month.
“Without IFF, I don’t think there’s a way we could have gotten this done,” says Keesling. “Our facility is going to take up 7.5 acres on a 55-acre property. Owning the building is going to give us leverage to influence the rest of the development on the site and control how fast it changes.”