States reluctant to privatize
Starting a garbage business meant privatizing garbage collection, and Poole soon learned that the state of North Carolina was reluctant to cede its control of the business. Despite the state's resistance, Poole's company was operating three landfills by 1973. Poole reveals that southern states are generally resistant to privatization, at least in solid waste management.
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: Anybody else trying to get a similar sort of business underway on the model that you had in mind early on? Or did you think you had an opportunity to do something different?
LP: There were a few people. Basically the one thing that I didn’t fully understand or take into consideration in writing up my first business plan, and I did have a five-year business plan, was that the cities were very involved in it. Little did I realize, that there would be a reluctance on their part to discontinue what they had been doing. The more modern up to date term is privatization. Privatization of the garbage business was really not something that cities were thinking about a lot in 1970. So when I tried to convince them that we could run landfills as a commercial enterprise, they were not very receptive. The end result is that that was a bigger uphill chore than I thought. Nevertheless we did in fact have five landfills operating by 1973. We weren't making any money, but we had five landfills. Because we weren't making money, the people that were, the other folks that had gotten into the business, were actually in the collection business. They were picking up in rural areas that were not serviced by the cities. So as a result of that, we bought six trucks and entered three separate markets, Wilmington, Henderson, and Raleigh. We were offering commercial and industrial collection service.
JM: I want to make sure that I understood you. Your business plan that you drew up did or didn't take up the privatization concept.
LP: Yes, it anticipated that privatization would be welcomed by cities.
JM: And then your experience was that it wasn't.
LP: And the experience was that it wasn't. And where did I kind of come to that conclusion? I lived in California, which had been privatized since the early 1900s. I had lived in a number of places, and the private companies did a substantially greater part of the solid waste function there than they did here. Even that's true until this very day. Overall in the whole country, a little less than thirty percent of the solid waste function is performed by governmental entities. In the South and Southeast and even a broader area than North Carolina, it's probably somewhere between forty-five and fifty percent is still done by city forces.