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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Lonnie Poole, March 22, 1999. Interview I-0085. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Poole founds waste management company in North Carolina

In this excerpt, Poole describes his decision to start his company, Waste Industries, in North Carolina after decades of moving from place to place. In 1970, the year Poole founded the company, the waste management industry offered a lot of room for innovation. Poole wanted to return home to North Carolina and figured the state surely had as much garbage as any other.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Lonnie Poole, March 22, 1999. Interview I-0085. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JM: Tell me this, what was it that led you--how did your thinking come together there around 1970 to head you in the direction of starting a company like this? LP: I think there was a lot of change in people's goals and objectives. Getting married and having children has a pretty dramatic impact. The moving gets to be tougher. You've got more stuff. But it--one of the driving things was you really need to live where you want to live. Where I had moved from was where I decided I wanted to move to. So I moved back to North Carolina. Second, the other two things that I kind of came to the conclusion is one you need to do what you like doing. Third, you need to do it with who you like doing it with. Those three objectives, if you can get those lined up, then everything else pretty much falls into place. Being self-employed, you can determine who you're going to be working with. The garbage business was something that was emerging at the time. One of my final assignments with the Koehring Company was to help find and develop an innovative product. One of our plants manufactured compaction equipment. It was a very mature product, a lot of price competition. The plant really and truly needed something innovative to do. Research found that we were going to attempt, I think, as a society to do a better job of getting rid of garbage. The EPA was not, hadn't even been formed at the time. But a lot had been written. The open burning dump was a health hazard and a nuisance. The way we stored our garbage was in fact not well done. It was a menace and a threat to public health. So the product that the Koehring Company developed while I was there was a landfill compactor. In the process of doing that research to kind of find an innovative product for a new service, I found out that the garbage business had some pretty good upside potential. It was relatively new. It was not an industry. As a result of that, when I decided what I was going to do when I came back to North Carolina is I decided, 'Well North Carolina's got just as much garbage as anybody else. So I'll be in the garbage business.' JM: Did you see North Carolina as and the region as a hot growth area? Did you anticipate that in broad terms that the region would take off the way it has? LP: No. JM: No. You were just coming home. LP I moved back here because I wanted to live here. No it was not--that motive was, the three motives. Live where you want to live, do what you like doing with people you like doing it with. I liked the people of North Carolina and I've grown up here. I liked to live here. Garbage was going to be the first attempt to find something to do. But I was not concerned if that didn’t work out, I'd do something else.