Rural counties depend on landfill business

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

Leaders in counties with landfills, where waste is often one of the largest single sources of revenue, say the increasingly massive waste management companies negotiate in good faith. But the real source of a county’s leverage is the ability to pull the land-use permit and kick the landfill out. And without a way of replacing the economic activity generated by the landfill or the steady waste revenues they’ve come to count on, counties are much less likely to do that today.

Oregon’s waste economy employs about 5,200 people, according to the state Employment Department, and generates revenues of about $944 million a year according to the national trade publication Waste Business Journal. Those figures include collections and recycling, but landfills are the hubs of the waste industry. Americans, even in the Pacific Northwest, still throw away more than they recycle.

Arlington-Landfill-Jordan-Anderson_0306
Jordan Anderson, of the family-owned Industrial Tire Service franchise in Arlington, checks and maintains tires on the trucks that carry waste to the landfill.

Most of the waste that was buried in Oregon last year ended up in one of the state’s seven regional, privately owned landfills. Regional landfills became the norm after stricter EPA regulations in the late 1980s made it too costly for municipalities to maintain smaller landfills. Six of Oregon’s regional landfills are in small or rural counties; three of those ended up in remote eastern counties, where residents welcomed landfills, prisons, anything that promised jobs. “Until renewable energy came along, waste was about the only kind of diversification that was possible. It’s so difficult, because of low population and distances, to attract any kind of industry,” says Mike McArthur, director of the Association of Oregon Counties and former judge of Sherman County, next to Gilliam. “I used to joke that we’d take anything but a nuclear waste dump.”

The landfill itself is out of sight from Arlington’s downtown, but Waste Management employees eat lunch at the Village Inn and buy supplies at the Ace Hardware. The company orders physicals from the Arlington Medical Clinic, necessitates the existence of a family- owned Industrial Tire Service franchise (employees: 3.5) and puts up a stream of contractors at the local motel, which at 34 rooms seems larger than necessary for a town with only one gas station.

Gilliam County attracts a lot of wind energy projects, but those haven’t brought many local jobs. Waste has been the county’s most successful economic development achievement. Yes, Gilliam County has been the butt of a few editorial cartoons. But its unemployment rate is consistently one of the lowest: 6.6% in November, when the statewide rate was 11.1%. “It brought jobs immediately,” Laura Pryor says.



 

More Articles

Photo Log: The 2015 100 Best Green Workplaces in Oregon

The Latest
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
greenthumbPHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

Oregon Business celebrated the 100 Best Green Workplaces with an awards luncheon yesterday at the Nines Hotel in downtown Portland.


Read more...

Frothy Battle

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY ROBERT MULLIN

Latest development in Nestlé plant saga sparks debate about the value of water.


Read more...

Eco Zoned

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY HANNAH WALLACE

Travelers have always come to Oregon for its natural beauty. But will the increasing popularity of agritourism, European-style hiking getaways and forest resorts relax Oregon's notoriously strict land-use laws?


Read more...

Intrepid reporter checks out ZoomCare rebrand

The Latest
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
dentistthumbPHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

Like all good journalists, OB editorial staff typically eschew freebies. But health care costs being what they are, digital news editor Jacob Palmer couldn't resist ZoomCare's offer of a three-in-one (cleaning, exam, whitening) dental office visit, guaranteed to take no more than 57 minutes. 


Read more...

Change at the pump?

The Latest
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
001thumbBY JASON E. KAPLAN | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

New Jersey and Oregon are the only two states in the U.S. that ban self serve gas stations. But these two holdouts may be ready to give up the game. New Jersey is considering legislation that would lift the state's ban on pumping your own gas. Oregon is considering smaller scale changes.


Read more...

Oregon businesses face destruction from future earthquake

The Latest
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
htctthumb1BY KIM MOORE | RESEARCH EDITOR

An earthquake would completely destroy many Oregon businesses, highlighting the urgent need for the private and public sectors to collaborate on shoring up disaster preparedness, said panelists at an Oregon Business breakfast summit today.


Read more...

Photo Diary: Forest Grove Farmers Market

The Latest
Thursday, May 14, 2015
IMG 8469BY JASON E. KAPLAN | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

There are more than 160 farmers markets in Oregon, contributing an estimated $50 million in sales, according to the Oregon Farmers Markets Association. We checked in on the Forest Grove market, which for several years has brought local produce and food vendors to Main Street in the center of town.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS