The Rapco Story
In the early 1960s cousins Steven and Thomas Amici (Stevie and Tommy) were childhood friends in the eastern Pennsylvania town of Allentown. The two boys were often seen pulling a little red wagon through the streets collecting old newspapers. One would pull the wagon while the other would carefully balance their cargo and push from the rear. The two early environmentalists would sell their newspapers to a local paper recycling plant and use the money to play pinball after school.
In the mid 1960's the city of Allentown experienced a building boom as many residential housing tracts began to spring up. The boys began going to construction sites and collecting discarded bottles. At the end of the day the bottles were sorted into piles depending on the color and whether the bottle had a return deposit value. The bottles were then sold for recycling.
By 1965 the little red wagon was replaced by two bicycles with large baskets. Business was good for Stevie and Tommy. However, Tommy’s back yard had become a giant stockpile for all of their contraband. Soon the neighbors began to complain. So the boys went to an uncle who owned a hotel at the local fair grounds and entered into their first business lease. The boys would pay $10.00 a month in exchange for an old 20'x20' storage shed.
In 1967 the boys opened their first bank account at the Lehigh Valley Trust Bank. Also, that same year Tommy turned 16 and was able to get a driver’s license. Using money they had saved, the duo bought an old three wheel truckster and attached an old two wheel trailer to the rear. The boys printed out flyers and distributed them through-out the city advertising free pick-up of all cans, bottles, scrap metal and newspapers. By the end of 1968, Tommy and Steve (now 17 and 13 respectively) had over 200 clients with a bank account well into 4 figures!
One day in the early 1970's the two cousins were picking up some old sheet metal from a heating contractor when they were informed that the material surrounding the duct work was asbestos. They were told that the material was dangerous and best left to professionals. Steven and Tommy left the asbestos behind but their curiosity was ignited. They began reading and learning all they could about this new waste called asbestos. At the time, there was very little public information available on asbestos removal. But after emptying the Allentown library of all of its literature on the subject, the two agreed that asbestos removal was the future and they decided that one day they would convert their business into an asbestos abatement company. So determined were the late teens that they even contacted a congressman from Harrisburg and arranged for a meeting so they could obtain all the information that they would need to start their new company.
By the mid 1970's the federal government began to regulate the removal and disposal of asbestos. It appeared that soon the government would require the removal of asbestos to be performed by licensed contractors with a specialty classification. In 1977, Thomas, at age 26, became one of the first in eastern Pennsylvania to take and pass the Pennsylvania asbestos classification certification.
Steven and Tom incorporated their company on April 16, 1977 and Rapco Environmental Services was born. Their first job came when they read in the local newspaper that nearby Bethlehem Steel needed asbestos removal performed and that the giant steel company was considering a contractor all the way from New York City. The two cousins leaped in their car and drove immediately to Bethlehem Steel (without an appointment). By the end of the day, they had landed their first job.
The company quickly grew providing environmental services for all of eastern Pennsylvania. By the 1980's Rapco, now with over 35 employees, had expanded into New Jersey and Delaware and was one of the leading environmental services companies in the area.
After hearing abut the construction and real estate explosion in California in the mid 1980s, and in a very bold move, the two founders decided to expand the company to Los Angeles. In 1989 Steven became licensed for asbestos removal in the state of California and the company began operating in the Los Angeles area.
By this time the company had grown to nearly 200 employees and had added lead abatement to their program. However, the two soon realized that there were many legal issues involved in the environmental field. The company was depending too heavily on outside legal counsel. So, in the 1990's Steven entered law school. And after successfully passing the California State Bar Examination, Steven became counsel and Co-CEO to Rapco West Environmental Services, Inc.
By the 2000's the company continued to grow as Rapco began to provide services for asbestos, lead, water damage, mold remediation and interior demolition. Steven and Tommy continue to oversee the operations of the company. "We want to make sure our good work ethic is preserved and we do that by continuing to stay involved in even the smallest details." Says Co-CEO and president Thomas J. Amici.
Rapco has now collectively performed over 20,000 environmental projects. However, Steven and Thomas believe that they’re just skimming the surface of the environmental industry. The two lifelong partners and cousins who started with a little red wagon and a dream now have plans for expansion into four additional states within the next three years as well as adding programs in both nuclear waste disposal and emergency response marine oil spill clean-up.