By Ethan Forman
DANVERS — House Speaker Robert DeLeo's admits he is no tech geek.
He totes a 31/2-year-old cellphone and wondered aloud last Thursday if he would understand just what the Danvers company called XTechnology Global does.
When DeLeo, a Winthrop Democrat, led a delegation of North Shore state representatives through the operation in a new commercial building at 27 Garden St., it was easy for him and others to see just what the e-recycling company does.
Inside, they found shelves filled with pallets of obsolete computers and workers disassembling them into bins. Everything will be used, the company's CEO said, and nothing will go to waste.
"What we do is not a sexy technology play," said CEO Michael Saia of Danvers, who has 28 years experience in electronics manufacturing and distribution. "We don't have the latest and greatest widget. We are on the end of life, or the life-cycle management of IT assets."
Companies face a problem when their information technology becomes obsolete after just a few years, displaced by cheaper, faster, more energy-efficient gear, Saia said.
The company works with IT departments of major health care and financial institutions to help them handle these products.
"We return them money back into their budget by re-marketing the product," Saia said, "recycling the product, and by way of making them data-compliant."
The company's employees not only take computers and other devices apart and sort their components for resale or recycling, they help a company meet complex financial and health care regulations.
Federal regulations on data security and health care privacy mean "you can't just throw that data way," Saia said. "It has to be eradicated. We have all the tools to do either software wipe or an electromagnetic wipe, and then the drive is put in a 'bass-o-matic' and then recycled."
The company tracks computers as they are recycled, and it uses a "data eradication laboratory," one that can be brought to another company's offices, to remove sensitive information from computer hard drives. Those drives can either be recycled or resold without concern the data will be stolen, Saia said.
The company has met certain certifications that make it stand out, Saia said.
The company was the first in the state to receive R2 certification, which is shorthand for Responsible Recycling, a program directed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Having such certification means the computers, peripherals and parts are being handled according to certain standards. XTechnology Global can also tell companies which of their computer parts are resold, and which are destroyed and recycled later on.
XTechnology Global is a growing company, approaching $4 million in revenue, Saia said.
It has grown from his kitchen table in March 2008 ("The first employee was a controller to watch where the money went," Saia said."). Growth rates are hard to quantify because they are based on contracts from companies, but Saia said he has taken his time to build the company and invest in it, build its infrastructure, buy trucks and test equipment, and pay for certifications and a new software package.
The company now employs 27 people, Saia said, with four people working in New Jersey. The company just signed a partnership agreement with a similar company in the United Kingdom, Saia said.
In November 2010, the company moved from Topsfield into a 16,000-square-foot portion of a new building at 27 Garden St., a road that carries traffic between Route 114 (Andover Street) and Prince Street in Danvers. Saia said that in the next few months, he expects to start a second shift, "which translates to jobs."
Saia has held various engineering and marketing positions in the IT industry, including at Advanced Micro Devices, Fairchild Semiconductor and Digital Equipment Corp. He worked for a startup data center. His previous company re-marketed electronic components, but recycling and data compliance was not something his former employer did.
"The customers kept coming to me and said, 'Listen, I've got this problem. ... We are doing an equipment refresh, and we want you to take this old equipment." Much of the stuff could not be resold.
Saia figured out how to recycle the components, resell them and wipe hard drives clean. As he went along, he realized the business needed quality controls, so he created an audit trail so customers can track their gear as it gets resold or recycled. Companies get money back if the components can be re-marketed.
His company is not alone in doing what it does, but Saia said he has the labor to go out to businesses, tag the equipment and deploy the data eradication lab in the field.
"We have a company in Massachusetts in a very difficult environment, that is not only growing, we are hiring," Saia said. "We've taken 12 people off the unemployment rolls, and we are going to take more."
"Would you say this a growing industry in Massachusetts?" DeLeo asked. "Please say 'yes.'"
Saia said the industry is growing.
"There are a lot of commodity metal prices that are through the roof," Saia said. "So there is a lot of value in trash." There are all sorts of precious metals inside the computers people want. All the metals are smelted elsewhere, and the company does not deal with toxic substances at its site.
When state Rep. Joyce Spiliotis, D-Peabody, asked about security, Saia joked: "Everybody's armed. I'm just kidding."
Saia said his company goes to great lengths to protect data, from lockout and white-glove-service trucks that are monitored by GPS and can be escorted by armed guards. The facility is alarmed, under 24-hour audio and video surveillance.
When asked by state Rep. Lori Ehrlich, D-Marblehead, about recycling efforts, Saia said about 60 percent of what the company does is the re-marketing of the parts, about 20 percent involves data compliance and 20 percent involves recycling.
So, what can the state do for a company like XTechnology? DeLeo, who has been out visiting various businesses around the state, said the best thing the state can do is create a predictable business environment when it comes to taxes and regulation.
"I want to hear how we can partner with those industries in Massachusetts so they can grow," DeLeo said.
"I have been blessed with some good fortune and great people," said Saia, who also happens to be a deputy commissioner on the Massachusetts Boxing Commission. "As a business owner, I need to reach out to my local state reps so they understand what I'm trying to do. I like to work hand-in-hand with government."
Saia said his goal in inviting DeLeo and local representatives, including Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers; Steven Walsh, D-Lynn; and Kathi-Anne Reinstein, D-Revere, was to show them that even in tough times there are businesses that are thriving, and to let the officials know such businesses exist on the North Shore.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DanverSalemNews.
Company at a glance
Company: XTechnology Global
Address: 27 Garden St., Unit 8, Danvers
CEO: Michael Saia
What it does: Re-markets, recycles and scrubs data from electronic equipment
Revenues: Approaching $4 million