In the Spotlight

Waste Industries USA, Inc.: Creating Community Partnerships

By partnering with community colleges and reaching out through educational programs whenever possible, Waste Industries takes pride in building a foundation for future employees of the solid waste and recycling industries.

Waste Industries USA, Inc., a thriving solid waste services company with 1,900 employees, has provided collection, transfer, disposal and recycling services to commercial, industrial and residential customer locations in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Tennessee for more than 40 years.

Waste Industries was developed in 1970 by Lonnie Poole, Jr. who had a vision of what the company could be and introduced his plan to J. Gregory Poole who would become its first outside investor. Although Waste Industries’ early years were filled with challenges, the company established a track record for performance in a very demanding business. It constructed sanitary landfills and opened collection operations in towns and counties in Eastern North Carolina and still enjoys many business relationships established in the 1970s. By the mid 1980s, the company’s revenues reached $10 million and the company had created a culture that would sustain its growth—one built around people, principles, practices and performance. By the end of the 1990s Waste Industries reached a milestone of $100 million in revenues and became a public company with its stock traded on the NASDAQ under the ticker symbol WWIN. In 2008, after 11 years as a public company, Waste Industries, with the support of two prominent investment firms, Macquarie and Goldman Sachs, would become private once again.

From landfills and transfer stations to strategic environmental policies, Waste Industries provides efficient, innovative and cost-effective solid waste solutions.

Becoming a Strategic Partner

Like everyone, the economy has affected Waste Industries’ business, especially in construction and roll-off division. However, residential pickup has maintained its status and the company works at being as visible as possible within their communities in order to be not only a partner, but also the hauler of choice.

In doing so, Waste Industries has created and maintained several programs that have helped this goal, including partnering with community colleges. In one of the programs, the company hires several students interested in the waste industry as full-time active employees. Not only do they learn the ins and outs of the operation, but it prepares them for a long-term job at the company. For every six months the students are employed at Waste Industries, the company reimburses them a semester of tuition and books. They have also donated vehicles to partner community colleges to assist them in developing their technicians. “The company’s been doing this for the last five years and it continues to grow,” says Key Winkler, Waste Industries’ Human Resources Manager. “We’ve just partnered with Johnston Community College in North Carolina in the past year and we’re looking to further expand into the Georgia areas. It’s been very successful. Many of our students in these colleges remain with this, especially our heavy equipment technicians.”

In addition, Waste Industries has partnered with the North Carolina Truck Driving Training School located at Johnston Community College. The oldest truck driving academies in the country, the school was established in 1949 at North Carolina State University. It provides the trucking industry with a regular supply of professionally trained drivers. In 1974, the program transferred from the university system to the community college system, and Johnston Community College became the driving force for providing administrative supervision and direction. The program, endorsed and co-sponsored by the North Carolina Trucking Association, has more than 22,000 student graduations and currently operates approximately 22 road and range tractors and 35 trailers.To this school,Waste Industries donated a front-end truck that will be used to train those who are interested in an alternative choice to traditional truck driving. Endorsed and co-sponsored by the North Carolina Trucking Association, Waste Industries regularly sends lead drivers there to train the school’s driving instructors on operating a refuse vehicle.

Not only do we have a career partnership with community colleges, but we also have a management development program that will develop those people we think are leaders,” says Winkler. “They don’t need any trash experience; we’ll teach them everything they need to know about being a manager or supervisor for Waste industries.” He is also excited to mention the creation and implementation of Waste Industries University, which involves e-learning and instructional-based courses via the company’s Web site that will be accessible to every employee across all their regions who are interested in participating.

Finally, Waste Industries visits elementary, middle and high schools on career or job fair day to talk about the company, the solid waste and recycling industries, as well as educate them on landfills and transfer stations.

Standing Out

Waste Industries has received Johnston Community College’s 2009 Business and Industry Partner of the Year Award as well as the 2010 Five-Star Statement of Support from the Department of Defense, North Carolina National Guard for its commitment to employees who are members of the armed forces. Co-sponsored by the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, the Five-Star Statement of Support was presented by Brigadier General James Trogdon, III to the company’s CEO Ben Poole. By signing the Statement of Support, Waste Industries pledged to continue the tradition of support for military employees and their families.“We do much more than just saying we support our troops,” stresses Winkler. “Many of our trucks have big signs on the side indicating it as well. We also hire many veterans through our recruiting efforts and pay salary differentials for our national guardsmen who are deployed. Waste Industries is very much a family-oriented company—it provides its National Guard and Reserve soldiers and their families with full medical benefits and pay differential while serving on active duty for up to one year. Soldiers also continue to accumulate vacation time at Waste Industries while conducting active-duty military service. We take care of business for him because the last thing he needs to worry about when he is deployed is what is happening at home with my job.” In addition, Waste Industries puts together care packages and letters from fellow co-workers to their deployed soldiers as well as participates in every Fort Bragg Job Fair and attends and Military Star job fairs in efforts to recruit military members from local National Guard Armories. The company has also attended and participated in all employer days for transitioning troops at Fort Bragg, NC, Fort Campbell, KY and Cherry Point, NC.

At the corporate office, Waste Industries has also created a picture-filled wall of fame for those employees who receive a company reward. Some of these include: Years of Service; a Key Driver Award, recognizing those who have a positive approach to work and create a productive and safe work environment while helping others; the Golden Wrench Award which recognizes administrative and operations support; the President’s Award; and the Salesperson of the Year.

We have many good programs in place and we are always looking to improve and be in the forefront of technology growth and in doing our business better. The company takes pride in providing what it can for our employees. Even in a down economy, Waste Industries will continue to give wage increases and keep 401Ks active. We believe that a company prides itself on its most valuable asset—the employees.”

Facing Some Key Challenges

Because Waste Industries’ number one priority is customer service, one of the areas that is a challenge is finding and maintaining quality drivers and technicians.It is a very competitive market therefore, as an organization you must be innovated in your recruiting efforts. What we have done to combat this is to leverage our relationships with our community colleges and with transitioning soldiers to reach those qualified individuals who will be successful not only in life, but in a career with Waste Industries.

Keeping up with ever changing industry innovation is a challenge. Waste Industries continues to be successful in this area while protecting the environment, its customers and our business through education, and innovations such as ‘Gas to Energy’ projects that turns Landfill Gases into usable energy.

Waste Industries monitors local government, state and federal legislation through its local managers, division municipal/governmental contract managers, and corporate government affairs officers that are also registered lobbyists. Waste Industries has been instrumental in supporting or fighting legislation that affects the company and the industry. Waste Industries serves in leadership roles on legislative and policy committees for the National Solid Wastes Management Association and the Solid Waste Association of North America.

Future Outlook

And the future? Winkler says the company continually looks for opportunities to expand as long as the growth is of value. When executive management decides to acquire another company, a due diligence is performed in which Human Resources will evaluate the employees and benefits. Waste Industries then works with the other company to make sure their needs are met and begins to bring in as many employees as possible, setting them at ease with an excellent support system, while maintaining Waste Industries’ culture. “We don’t want to lose sight of what got us where we’re at, so those who are in the position to make these decisions are always mindful to make sure that when the company enters into a venture, it is profitable for all those involved and brings value not only to the company, but also to everyone it affects.” Our motto is “We’re part of everyday life…Make us part of yours.®”

For more information, contact Key Winkler, HR Manager, at (919) 877-2233 or visit