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Export Regulations Underground Vaults & Storage Adds Document Destruction Services

By P.J. Heller
Best known for its underground salt mine storage facility, Underground Vaults & Storage has branched out to offer document destruction, providing clients with services for the full life cycle of their materials.

“It really closes the circle on our document storage and records management services,” says Jeff Ollenburger, a vice president with the Hutchinson, Kansas-headquartered company. “We can take it from the very beginning of the document life cycle all the way through digitization, cloud storage or some other thing of that nature. And then when the physical documents are no longer needed . . . we can handle the destruction in a NAID-certified capacity . . . ”

Until recently, Underground Vaults & Storage (UV&S) had relied on third-party vendors when clients required document destruction. That all changed in early 2014 when Underground acquired Document Resources, a document destruction company based in Manhattan, Kansas.

“Both of our organizations are family-owned, Kansas companies,” Lee Spence, president of UV&S, said at the time. “Expanding our current offerings with those of Document Resources will provide our clients enhanced security and convenience.”

Started in 1998, Document Resources provided on-site and off-site shredding services from four facilities in the Kansas communities of Wichita, Manhattan, Hays and Salina. The acquisition of Document Resources came as UV&S was looking into starting its own document destruction services while also looking for possible acquisitions.

“The timing just worked out that Document Resources became available during that time period,” Ollenburger notes. “It was easier to transition into bringing that company on board rather than starting from scratch.”

All 23 employees of Document Resources were retained, with additional workers subsequently hired to handle the workload. Also retained was the Document Resources name, now a division of UV&S.

“The company [Document Resources] had a great reputation in the state for providing very good service and we didn’t want to change that name recognition,” Ollenburger explains.

That fact, combined with UV&S history of more than half a century operating in the region, has served the company well.

“A lot of companies in and around Kansas have had an experience with us for over 50 years,” Ollenburger says. “We’ve been one of the only, and certainly the largest, Kansas-based storage companies and we have had interactions and done business with a lot of companies and groups in the state through our storage business. I think there‘s some name recognition and trust that we’ve built up over that time span. Also, we inherited a great deal of good will when we purchased Document Resources.”

After the acquisition, UV&S embarked on a major $1.7 million expansion plan in Wichita, consolidating its existing records center and the Document Resources facility into a new 150,000-plus square foot building. About 25,000 square feet is dedicated to the document destruction operations center. The upgrade included installation of a new shredder and auto-tie baler, both of which became operational June 22.

“The new shredding equipment functions at a level that will increase the speed and efficiency of our shredding capabilities as much as 60 percent,” Spence notes. “The need for local, secure destruction of documents is continuing to grow and our goal is to meet that need at the highest levels of safety, security and output.”

Smaller size shredders are located in Manhattan, where the Document Resources facility has since been moved to a larger building, and in Hays. The Document Resources division also operates five mobile shred trucks along with 13 other vehicles to service clients.

“A majority of our clients tend to opt for the off-site shredding back at our facility,” Ollenburger notes, adding, “We are prepared and willing and able to do whatever the client requires.”

The growing demand for shred services is confirmed by Document Resources statistics. In 2013, one year before the acquisition by UV&S, it processed approximately 5 million pounds of paper; the following year the division processed 7 million pounds. Totals so far this year are ahead of 2014, according to company officials.

Document destruction services are primarily aimed at customers in Kansas, although a shredding facility was added to UV&S’s storage center in Kansas City, Mo. Plans are in the works to set up a full-scale document destruction transfer station at its Oklahoma City facility and to expand that model to other storage locations, including one in Kentucky.

Utilizing that “spoke and hub” model for document destruction will allow the company to expand into a variety of markets, Ollenburger predicts. “Our long term goal would be to continue to add both storage and document destruction facilities around the Midwest,” he says.

Among possible areas for expansion: Nebraska, Colorado, Texas and Arkansas.

“We’ve looked at opportunities all around the country but they haven’t been the right fit for us at this time,” Ollenburger says. “We are definitely in an acquisition mode. We’re looking to continue to grow our footprint.”

The company is also looking at technology as a way to grow, such as creating data centers in some of its underground facilities.

“We’re at the early stages of that analysis but we think there’s some opportunity to get beyond just paper storage and into digital storage more so than we have been,” Ollenburger says. “As a smaller company, we’re pretty nimble, and as opportunities present themselves, regardless of what they may be and what they may look like, we can react pretty quickly. You never know where a road might lead us and I think our company is well positioned, both from a leadership standpoint and from a financial standpoint, to be able to move quickly and react when opportunities present themselves.”

The company operates in nine Midwest locations, including its underground storage facilities in Kansas City, Mo., and Louisville, Ky. — both limestone mines — and its salt mine some 650 feet below the earth’s surface in Hutchinson, Kansas. Items stored in the mines in addition to documents include such things as artwork, movie props, museum artifacts and motion picture film elements. The company boasts thousands of satisfied clients from more than 24 countries.

Ollenburger says that while many customers talk about customer service, he believes this is really what sets UV&S apart from the competition.

“We know when clients want something, they want it,” he says. “We work very hard to get that information to them quickly so they can make a decision. Sometimes we’re not always the best fit for what they’re looking for, but the majority of the time we seem to be providing them exactly what they’re looking for at a fair price. People like to do business with us. That serves us well through all our platforms.”

UV&S was founded in 1959 by a group of Wichita businessmen who came up with the idea of underground records storage for security purposes at the height of the Cold War era. The company today, with some 125 employees, remains closely held by the original founding families, some now second- and third-generation.

“That family-run business model has served us well for over 50 years,” Ollenburger says.

“We’re getting the children and grandchildren that still refer back to their parents’ or grandparents’ vision and long-term plans for this company,” adds Ollenburger, who has been with UV&S for five years. “It’s fun to listen to the historical perspective through their eyes and use that as a guiding reference for where this company could go . . . It still feels like a pretty small family-run business although our footprint is getting pretty large across multiple states.”

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