Sponsored by Oregon Business

Rural counties depend on landfill business

| Print |  Email
Articles - February 2010
Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Gilliam really wanted Seattle’s garbage, and Portland’s and anyone else’s, because more waste meant more jobs. But if Waste Management was going to bury trash in Gilliam’s back yard, they were going to have to pay for the privilege. Pryor and Gronquist wrangled a generous list of guarantees for the county: local hiring; closure and maintenance of old, unsafe dumps; charitable donations; and a “host fee” tied to garbage volumes.


Waste Management was willing to make significant concessions in order to get a regional landfill built before the competition; Metro, the Portland area regional government, was looking for a place to send its trash and Waste Management wanted first dibs. But even after the deal was sealed, the landfill built and the trash flowing, Waste Management was careful to oblige the county. If there was litter on the road the landfill used, Pryor would march into the senior manager’s office and slam a garbage bag full of it onto his desk. “Clean it up,” she’d say. “We didn’t sign up to have you trash our county.” And Waste Management would clean it up.

Residents of Gilliam and other counties that host landfills say they have a good deal: a steady, recession-resistant employer that pays the county incentives instead of the other way around. But the dynamic between counties and waste companies has changed in the 20 years since Gilliam County opened its doors to the landfill.

Waste companies have grown rapidly through mergers and acquisitions in the years after Oregon’s regional landfills were built, becoming vertically integrated, multi-billion dollar conglomerates that often own hundreds of landfills. Management consolidated; companies sent decision makers to corporate offices, leaving site managers and salespeople as the local liaisons.

Laura Pryor fought to bring the landfill to Arlington when she was county judge. Ronald D. Wilson is the owner of Arlington Ace Hardware Store, which gets business from the landfill.

Columbia Ridge is now just one out of 273 landfills in North America controlled by industry leader Waste Management, which owns two other regional landfills in Oregon. Waste Management was bought in 1998 by USA Waste, the nation’s third-largest waste corporation. The new Waste Management (USA Waste dropped its name because of global ambitions) pulled its senior manager out of Arlington. If Laura Pryor wanted to slam a garbage bag onto a company manager’s desk today, she’d have to drive to Washington state.

Meanwhile, Oregon’s counties have grown accustomed to their new revenue stream. The landfill brings in more than twice the money Gilliam collects in property taxes, making it the county’s largest revenue source. The $3 million in host fees fund line items such as the annual $600 property tax offset for residents, but 25% goes to economic development, with each of Gilliam’s three incorporated cities getting a cut to bolster their budgets, and the rest covering essentials such as the county fire department.


More Articles

Inside the Box

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Screening for “culture fit” has become an essential part of the hiring process. But do like-minded employees actually build strong companies — or merely breed consensus culture?


Living the dream

Friday, August 21, 2015

smugglespearsthumbRenee Spears, founder and owner of Portland-based Rose City Mortgage, is hot to trot to sell pot.


Grain Food

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Power Lunch at Bob's Red Mill Whole Grain Store and Restaurant.


Have a baby and keep a job? It won’t be easy in Portland

The Latest
Friday, October 02, 2015
100115kimblogthumbBY KIM MOORE

Our intrepid (and expecting) research editor finds the child care search involves long waiting lists, costly fees and no certainty of securing a place before she goes back to work.


100 Best Nonprofits: Working for equality inside and out

October 2015
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Striving for social equity is the mission of many nonprofits, and this year’s 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For in Oregon survey shows employees are most satisfied with their organizations’ fair treatment of differing racial, gender, disability, age and economic groups. But as a national discourse about racial discrimination and equity for low-income groups takes center stage, data show Oregon’s 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For still need to make progress on addressing these issues within their own organizations.


The 10 most successful crowdfunding campaigns in Oregon

The Latest
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
081915-crowdfundingmainBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

One of the hottest new investment trends has proven quite lucrative for some companies.


Storyteller in Chief: Power Player

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

In 1996, after a 17-year career in the destination marketing industry, where I gained national standing as the CEO of the Convention & Visitors Association of Lane County, I was recruited by the founders of a new professional basketball league for women. The American Basketball League (ABL) hoped to leverage the success of the 1996 USA women’s national team at the Atlanta Olympics — much like USA Soccer is now leveraging the U.S. Women’s National Team’s victory in the World Cup. The ABL wanted a team in Portland, and they wanted me to be its general manager.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02