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Waste Industries USA, Inc
Waste Industries USA, Inc. is based out of Raleigh, North Carolina and is one of the fastest growing waste and recycling service companies in the Southeast. Lonnie C. Poole Jr., a graduate from NC State University, founded the company in 1970.
At the age of 33, Lonnie C. Poole Jr. sold his home in Ohio and used the $10,000 derived from the sale of his home to start Waste Industries. After he and his family moved in with his parents in Raleigh, Poole gained additional start-up money from Gregory Poole (no relation), the owner of a local construction supply company. The company Waste Industries was incorporated in December of 1970.
The company’s first employee, Jim Perry, was hired at the beginning of 1971. Poole struggled to keep the company solvent during the first few years, but he was able to convince communities to operate landfills on a fee basis because private operators were few and far between.
In 1973, Waste Industries expanded outside of Raleigh and Wake County and into the New Hanover and Vance counties while forming Kabco, a waste equipment sales company. Throughout the 1970s waste companies began to consolidate and government regulations became stricter. As a result the public sector transferred more responsibility to private companies for the day-to-day waste management. For small communities unable to manage their own landfills according to new government standards, Waste Industries offered transfer stations for those that chose to export their waste.
After the initial establishment period in the early 1970s, the company grew rapidly. It expanded throughout the eastern North Carolina and opened sanitary landfills and collection operations. By 1979, the company exited the landfill business completely and solely concentrated on trash pickup. By 1980, the company’s revenues reached $10 million. Perry, the first employee, was named president and chief operating officer of the company in 1987. In 1996, TransAmerican Waste Industries Inc., a Houston based company, offered to buy the company from Poole for $150 million in cash and stocks. Poole declined.
Waste Industries became the leader in the Southeastern market, and by the 1990s it included nineteen collection operations. By 1997, Waste Industries had 20 branch collection operations, 11 transfer stations, and 4 recycling facilities that served 150,000 municipal, residential, commercial, and industrial locations. The company’s revenue also hit $100 million, and it became a public traded company in 1997. In essence, Waste Industries had grown beyond its Carolina roots and into Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Virginia. And at the turn of the century, Waste Industries was moving into Kentucky, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
Waste Industries has always been an innovative company on the technological front. In the mid 1980s the company installed a sophisticated computerized data collection. In the 2000s Waste Industries was the first trash company on the East Coast to allow its customers to pay bills online, saving the company thousands of dollars and making the payment process easier for many customers. Waste Industries also began sophisticated software programs that assisted with faster customer service, electronically govern the engines of its trucks, and plan pickup routes.
In 2008, the company went back to private ownership. The Poole family owns sixty percent. Although Lonnie Poole Jr., the founder, has stepped down from his role as CEO, he still plays an active role in the company. Waste Industries now employs more than two thousand people at its forty-three locations. The company remains one of the fastest growing waste and recycling companies in the Southeast.
Jay Price, Raleigh News & Observer, N.C. State receives $40 million gift, December 17, 2010; Jenny Rosser, Triangle Business Journal, Its Stock Wastes Away, June 23, 2000; Randy Southerland, Waste Age, A Hometown Boy's Dream, November 2000; Waste Industries USA, Inc., Our History – A Foundation for the Future, http://www.waste-ind.com/, (last accessed January 4, 2011); Pat Youden, Triangle Business Journal, Innovative Trash, June 23, 2000.
By Kellie Slappey, North Carolina History Project
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