[by Phyllis Shaikun]
Bruce Blue, CEO of Freedom Metals and immediate past president of Congregation Adath Jeshurun, was recently honored by Ernst & Young as Entrepreneur of the Year for Industrial Products for the South Central Ohio and Kentucky (SCOK) region. The award was presented at a dinner held on June 28 in Cincinnati.
In their announcement, Ernst & Young said their company was inspired by the stories of regional winners like Blue whose vision, passion and solid execution stood out among a strong field of competitors. Although Blue was surprised and deeply moved by the recognition, he certainly put in the time and energy to earn the distinction. He recalls doing odd jobs in his family’s scrap metal business, Louisville Scrap Material Company, from the time he was 10 years old.
After graduating from the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in business administration majoring in finance and marketing, he joined the family business in 1968 and worked there until 1982. In 1983, he started his own business, Freedom Metals, with just three employees and a modest investment by two friends from California and one from Tennessee. The three original employees now help to run the multi-million dollar business, which has a workforce of more than 180.
“I spent countless hours learning and guiding the business,” says Blue, who remembers many years of working 16-18-hour days, seven days a week and being involved in every aspect of the business. He is particularly grateful to Stockyards Bank for their help in getting his company “off the ground.” He commented, “They gave me a start when no one else would and were a great help to me.”
Blue has doubled revenue in the last three years and is now stepping back to allow for a new leadership strategy. Although he will remain the company’s CEO, his son, Spencer, who has been with Freedom Metals for seven years, was recently named president. This change will allow Blue to be “plugged in, but more hands off” so his managers can gain from the experience of managing day-to-day activities.
A leader in the custom recycling industry, Blue served as chairman of the national convention of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. (ISRI) for the last two years and feels inspired by the knowledge-sharing that takes place among the ISRI’s 1,600 member companies.
Blue’s honesty and self-deprecating style apparently won over Ernst & Young’s SCOK Entrepreneur of the Year judges, who chose to honor him for the award. However, the preliminary process for selecting award winners came at a very difficult time for Blue personally. Phyllis Adams, his partner of 22 years, and the woman he describes as “the kindest person I’ve ever met; my rock and the person who was always behind me,” was dying. She passed away on June 14.
A long time board member at Adath Jeshurun, as were his parents (his mother, Miriam Blue, was the first female member of the board), Blue chose to honor both special women in his life by creating the Miriam R. Blue & Phyllis A. Adams Kitchen Endowment Fund at Adath Jeshurun in their memory. He explains they both loved to cook and this seemed a fitting way to recognize their legacy.
A lifetime Louisville resident, Blue has two brothers, David and Dr. Brent; three children, Justin, Spencer (Micah) and Madelyn, and three grandchildren, “with one on the way.”