ISRI’s Commodity Roundtables Forum will take place Sept. 22-24, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Chicago. The annual event attracts processors, brokers, traders, and other recycling professionals from around the world. Register here.
For Blake Hurtik, the ferrous markets are somewhat like a sporting event—people compete against one another to improve their respective positions. Though Hurtik grew up wanting to be a sportswriter, he’s found covering the metals markets to be just as exciting and dynamic. As Editor for Argus Metal Prices at Argus Media, he oversees the company’s global scrap coverage and its North American metals coverage. With his knowledge and understanding of the ferrous markets, Hurtik often speaks at ISRI events and will be the featured speaker on the ferrous panel at ISRI’s upcoming Commodity Roundtables Forum in Chicago.
Scrap News spoke with Hurtik about his career path, his continuing interest in the commodities markets, and what he hopes attendees take away from his session at the Commodity Roundtables Forum.
Can you tell me about your career path and how it led you to Argus Media?
I majored in journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. I always wanted to be a sportswriter. My first job out of college was covering high school sports for the San Antonio Express News. I had a lot of fun during my three years there.
My wife was in graduate school in Houston, so I wanted to get a job there. While looking for jobs, I had some friends who worked for a competitor of Argus, so I was familiar with that space. I didn’t think we’d stay in Houston long-term, so I figured I’d only work there for a few years and move on to the next opportunity.
In 2013, I was hired to cover fertilizers for Argus. I rose through the ranks of being a reporter covering a specific market to running the whole North America report and supervising a few people. The position exposed me to the commodities world, how things trade, and how the physical markets work.
After about three or four years, I learned of an opportunity for a deputy editor role on the metals team. It was a new sector for Argus at the time. I had been covering fertilizer for several years and wanted to try something different, so I applied for the position. I didn’t know how much scrap was going to be part of it when I started, but I quickly got into it and enjoyed it.
I was the number two person for the first year. When the person ahead of me left, I stepped in and now I run the team. I oversee our global scrap coverage and our North America metals coverage. It’s been really fun. You learn something new every day with the global markets.
What interests you about the commodities markets?
From a broad perspective, I’ve gotten to learn how things move from point “a” to point “b” and the raw materials that go into making modern life what it is. The recycling industry appeals to me on a personal level. My dad is a diesel mechanic, so I routinely went to job sites with him while I was growing up. I was struck by how much pride people in those industries take in their work. That’s not withstanding recycling’s role in keeping more critical minerals in the ground and lowering our carbon footprint.
To an outside observer, covering sports and interviewing famous athletes may seem glamorous. But you never feel like you know them. In this industry, you get to know the people you’re interviewing, and I’ve really enjoyed speaking with recyclers. Sometimes covering this sector can feel like covering a sporting event—people are trying to better their position so they compete against others to achieve their goals.
What’s your previous experience participating in ISRI events?
I was on the ferrous panel for the last in-person Commodity Roundtables Forum in 2019. I’m excited to be back in Chicago for this event. I was on the ferrous panel at ISRI2021 and I’ve spoken at regional ISRI events as well as events for local recycling associations.
If you’re going to cover the recycling industry you need ISRI. Argus produces pricing information and market intelligence to help the business of recyclers and other consumers of recycled materials. ISRI produces a lot of great data. From a networking standpoint, it’s critical to attend ISRI events so we can meet with people we hope will be our sources and for the commercial side as potential clients.
We’ve also collaborated with ISRI. The association has helped us with issues and informed our reporting. In the past, Argus has been a sponsor at the Commodity Roundtables Forum and we look forward to being one again this year.
On a personal level, I like bouncing ideas off of Joe Pickard [ISRI’s chief economist/director of Commodities] and Adina Renee Adler [ISRI’s VP of Advocacy] on trade issues. They both have such a wide knowledge of what’s impacting the industry.
What are you excited about for the upcoming forum?
Getting to see people again. We participated in the ISRI Gulf Coast Chapter conference in June and that was the first in-person event since the pandemic. It was almost cathartic to see everyone around each other again. It felt like old friends and family coming together.
Presenting virtually is relatively easy to do from your desk. There’s something about getting up on stage and having a Q&A that just makes you feel alive.
What do you hope attendees take away from the session?
I hope they have a better understanding of the dynamics impacting ferrous metals and steel today. The price of steel is on everyone’s mind now because it’s at a record high. People are wondering when things may normalize and how scrap reacts to that. We’ll also cover some of the issues that cause recyclers frustration, like how scrap doesn’t track with steel one for one. Using data and adding more context, we’ll get into why that’s the case and why they operate from different factors.
Argus has 10 people on staff covering metals in the U.S. including aluminum, copper, nickel, stainless steel, and minor metals. I might be the one on stage but we have a really strong team across the entire recycling spectrum both in the U.S. and globally. I want to showcase our team’s work, and hopefully it can help attendees in their respective businesses.
Photo courtesy of Blake Hurtik.