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

Preserving the Legacy

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY KIM MOORE | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

A New York floral and gift business takes on the iconic Harry & David brand.


Read more...

Storyteller in Chief: Power Player

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
BY LINDA WESTON

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.


Read more...

10 Innovators in Rural Health

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

Telemedicine, new partnerships and real estate diversification make health care more accessible in rural Oregon.


Read more...

Balancing Act

July/August 2015
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY DAN COOK

The Affordable Care Act has triggered a rush on health care plan redesign, a process fraught with hidden costs and consequences.


Read more...

Money Troubles

September 2015
Thursday, August 20, 2015
BY DAN COOK

The state’s angel investing fund gets hammered in Salem.


Read more...

Child care challenge

September 2015
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
0927OHSUhealthystarts-thumbBY KIM MOORE AND LINDA BAKER

Child care in Oregon is expensive and hard to find. We delved into the numbers and talked to a few executives and managers about day care costs, accessibility and work-life balance.


Read more...

Business partnerships: taming the three-headed monster

Contributed Blogs
Monday, July 06, 2015
070615-businessmarriagefail-thumbBY KATHERINE HEEKIN | OB GUEST COLUMNIST

Picking a business partner is not much different than choosing a spouse or life partner, and the business break-up can be as heart-wrenching and costly as divorce.


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