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

Fighting Fire With Fire

May 2015
Friday, April 24, 2015
BY BEN DEJARNETTE | INVESTIGATEWEST

Timber companies and environmental groups take a stab at collaboration to boost logging and restoration in Oregon fires.


Read more...

Emperor of the Sea

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY COURTNEY SHERWOOD | Photos by Jason E. Kaplan

Pacific Seafood, one of the world’s largest processors, is rebranding as a more transparent and consumer-friendly operation. A controversial CEO and monopoly accusations from coastal fishermen complicate the tale.


Read more...

An uncertain future

Guest Blog
Thursday, May 21, 2015
norristhumbBY JASON NORRIS | GUEST BLOGGER

Uncertainty is a part of doing business, whether in through the lens of investment opportunities and risks or the business of running an enterprise.


Read more...

Shades of Gray

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

Are we too quick to diagnose corruption?


Read more...

Picture This

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

As a general rule, the more people with autism can be provided with visual cues, the better they will be able to understand and manage their environment. It’s a lesson Tom Keating learned well. The 61-year-old Eugene grant writer spent 31 years taking care of his autistic brother James, and in the late 1980s developed a spreadsheet that created a series of nonsense characters that grew or shrank depending on how much money James had in his account. 


Read more...

The Health Guru

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

Mohan Nair channels a visionary.


Read more...

Beneath the Surface

May 2015
Thursday, April 23, 2015
0515-goodhacker01 250pxwBY LINDA BAKER

On April 1 I attended a forum at the University of Portland on the sharing economy. The event featured panelists from Lyft and Airbnb, as well as Portland Mayor Charlie Hales. Asked about the impact of tech-driven sharing economy services. Hales said the new business models are reshaping the landscape. “But,” he added, “I don’t pretend to understand how a lot of this [technology] works.” 


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