CDRA Member Spotlight: Jason Haus

Jason Haus, CEO of Dem-Con in Shakopee, MN

Jason Haus

What materials do you recycle? Can you describe the volume and types of incoming materials you process?

Dem-Con’s environmental campus in Shakopee, MN consists of a Construction & Demolition (C&D) MRF, Mixed Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) transfer facility, C&D Landfill, Single Stream Recycling MRF, Shingle Processing Yard, Wood Processing Yard, Concrete Crushing and, last but not least, a Commercial Metal Scrap Facility. At our C&D MRF we process materials within the incoming streams such as ferrous and non-ferrous metals, wood, concrete and brick, shingles as well as cardboard materials. Our volumes in the C&D MRF are around 60,000 TPY of C&D and we transfer about 45,000 TPY of MSW out of the same facility.

How did you get started in the business?

Dem-Con is a third-generation family business that my partner and brother-in-law Mark Pahl’s grandfather started in the 1960s. Mark and I purchased the company from his family in 2001. I first became involved in the business as an equipment operator my first summer out of high school and continued to come back each summer while attending college. I was attracted to the business by the changing environment of the facility on a day-to-day basis as well as the hard work that is performed each day by our loyal customer base. After college graduation I worked for a large public accounting firm, but eventually traded in my suit for a pair of work boots when Mark’s father, Joe Pahl, asked me if I would be interested in working for him as he was pursuing opening one of the first C&D recycling facilities in the state. Since coming to work here as a full-time employee in 1999, I have never looked back.

What are the biggest challenges in your market and C&D recycling?

I believe the biggest challenges in our market and recycling in general is the misunderstanding of what we do, and how much is actually being recycled. C&D recycling still remains a mystery to many, both in the general public as well as the regulatory agencies. Site visits and tours help with an understanding of what we do and the benefits of facilities like ours that recycle as much as we can for end markets that exist. The end markets for materials that we process are a huge barrier to success and limit the ability to recover more.

Where are the biggest opportunities?

Education and data are a large opportunity for the C&D market. Understanding what activities are performed related to the recycling of these materials is critical to understand the scope of what is being done, and what further can be done to recover more. I believe we lack reliable and thorough data that proves that there are a lot of materials being recycled but not being counted. There are countless road projects, bridges and large-scale demolition projects that recover materials on a large scale, but because these materials never see a facility like ours due to processing on site or direct hauling to concrete and scrap yards, those tons of fully recovered materials are never counted. Our industry does a lot more than they are currently given credit for.

How long have you been a member of CDRA?

I joined the CDRA not long after entering into the business which would make me a member for over 20 years.

What inspired you to join CDRA?

The CDRA is the only organization that has a broad depth of the specifics of our industry with board members and association members who are willing to share information to help your business grow and be successful. The willingness and openness of the member companies as well as the technical resources are what makes the CDRA unique and helpful for growing companies.

What do you find most rewarding about working in this industry?

Even though it has been over 20 years, I still go back to what had drawn me to the industry when I started: the people. Whether it is the colleagues who work alongside me at Dem-Con, customers, vendors or the people I have met over the years in other parts of the country, they are all top-notch individuals with the same drive, focus and desire to be successful. 

What challenges have you faced over the years and how have you overcome them?

Being located in a northern climate, the seasonal cyclical nature of the business takes some discipline and experience to understand volumes and workloads during different times of the year. The labor force has changed over the years as well and trying to grow sometimes is limited by the ability to hire. What I have learned and we have had success with is when a market downturn approaches, we tend to lean in and hire quality people that might be out of a job versus cutting our workforce. The markets come back, they always do, and when the market picks back up we are better equipped with high-quality people.

What’s something about you (a fun fact) that not many people know?

I truly enjoy mountaineering and spending time in the mountains with my friends and family. I have climbed the highest peak outside of the Himalayan mountains and slept at 20,000 ft with temps of -25F. It was a fantastic experience that is shared only by those willing to be challenged and be uncomfortable, but the reward is beyond words.

How do you think the industry is changing and what trends do you see coming up on the horizon?

I believe the industry is getting more sophisticated with the emergence of more data, automation, artificial intelligence and robotics. End markets for the products we recover are dependent on their own geographical areas and what markets are accessible to them. This industry is not one size fits all. I am hopeful that we are seeing some advances in end markets. One trend that we have seen is increased regulation without a thorough understanding of the markets and processing options currently available. We have seen regulation such as material bans, restrictions on disposal, recovery requirements, etc. that without a plan for materials that have been banned, we now have orphaned materials with no home or disposal options. I think we can find common ground in goals, objectives and regulations, while being realistic on what can be done if we have better communication and collaboration before decisions are made.

What advice would you give to someone interested in this industry?

Do your homework, talk with as many people as you can and have a long runway for planned success. This is not an industry of get in quick and get out. To be successful, you must understand all facets of your business and know that it takes time to build your facility, truck fleet, processing lines and overtime. It all comes together, but it takes time.

Best piece of business advice you’ve gotten or learned over the years?

It takes a lifetime to build a reputation, but only a minute to ruin it.


Would you like to have your company in a spotlight like this? Contact CDRA Executive Director William Turley at [email protected]; 630-258-9047.

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