A Goode partnership

Willie Goode, Bruce Bates and Michael Magee leverage their unique waste backgrounds to propel WB Waste in the Washington, D.C., market.

cover story
WB Waste owners Michael Magee, Willie Goode and Bruce Bates
Photos by Damon Bowe Photography
Photos by Damon Bowe Photography
From left: WB Waste owners Michael Magee, Willie Goode and Bruce Bates

Carving out his own path in the waste industry is something that Willie Goode aspired to ever since he was young.

Goode, who started working on the back of his uncle’s waste truck at the age of 15, took to the industry right away. Blessed with a football player’s size and an even bigger work ethic, he got accustomed to doing whatever it took to service the company’s customers.

Whether it was getting up early to spend the day throwing trash in the back of a truck, or jumping behind the wheel to drive the truck at the age of 15 before he technically had his license (Goode says he was a better driver than his coworker his uncle partnered him with), he was committed to getting the job done right.

With plenty of years of practice behind the wheel, Goode eventually took a job as a roll-off driver at AmCo at the age of 20. Then, in 1991, Waste Management purchased the company.

It was at this time that Michael Magee met Willie Goode.

Magee, who was Waste Management’s president of the Washington, D.C., metro area, was told by Goode’s boss that Willie was someone with a bright future.

“I was told by his boss that Willie was a sharp young man that really needs to be in management, and that we should consider giving him a job,” Magee says. “We had just bought the company, and were looking for talented managers and supervisors. After meeting with him, I thought he’d be a great fit, so I offered him a job as a supervisor at Waste Management, and he turned me down.

“He said, ‘Mr. Magee, I really want to have my own business. I think that this is a good opportunity for me to go out and buy a truck. And, if everything goes well, I’m going to have three trucks—one for me, one for my brother and one for my cousin—and we’re going to start a little trash company.’ I instantly liked the guy.”

Goode quickly put his dreams into action. After purchasing a truck, he set off on his own, founding C and G, a D.C.-based commercial waste management company. In 1992, Goode changed the name to Goode Trash, and a few years later after noticing that none of the top waste companies had “trash” in their name, changed it again to Goode Companies Inc.

A partnership formed

Shortly after Waste Management purchased AmCo, Magee was faced with a problem.

Magee says that Waste Management was under a collective bargaining agreement with the Teamsters in D.C. and there was a significant amount of collection work set aside for minority businesses, as well as labor-intensive manual pickup work that the union would not do.

Faced with the problem of finding a suitable subcontractor to take on the work, one name came to mind.

The team at WB Waste’s Recycle One C&D and MSW transfer facility

“I offered that work to Willie as his first big book of business as a minority subcontractor to Waste Management, and he took that on and that started our business relationship. I’m not saying that it launched his business, because he already had bought his truck and was doing his own thing, but that really forged our relationship, and he did a great job,” Magee says.

After Magee was transferred back to the Colorado market in 1996, Goode Companies continued to grow its operations and customer base. With an eye on further expansion, Goode partnered with Bruce Bates in 1996. Bates, like Goode, also grew up in the waste business, working for his father’s trucking company from the time he was a teenager. At the time Goode partnered with Bates, Bruce was running Bates Trucking on his own following the death of his father and older brother.

Shortly after partnering together, the pair won a contract to service Montgomery County, Maryland, after which Bates and Goode formed Unity Disposal. They then partnered to form Team Transport, a long-haul trucking business that hauled waste from New York and Philadelphia to landfills in Virginia.

After years of building these businesses together, they decided in 2014 to combine their two roll-off operations, open up a construction and demolition (C&D) recycling facility that they dubbed Recycle One, and blended the Team Transport division all under a new banner—WB Waste Solutions LLC.

In 2015, Magee says he was ready to retire and settle down in Colorado after decades in the waste business. That’s when he got a call from an old acquaintance.

“Willie and Bruce wanted me to make an investment in WB Waste, and asked if I would come along and help them try to continue to grow,” Magee says. “At the time, they had just received a permit to expand Recycle One from a C&D transfer facility to a MSW and C&D transfer facility. So, they were expanding their footprint, and I agreed to make my investment and became a partner in WB Waste.”

A combined effort

Besides Magee, Goode and Bates—who serve as the company’s owners—WB Waste now employs a staff of 220. Together, the company serves the D.C. metro region, including Baltimore, as well as customers in Maryland and northern Virginia, Richmond and Chesapeake, Virginia. To handle the company’s hauling needs, the company boasts a roster of 170 collection trucks and tractor trailers.

Presently, WB Waste owns and operates four transfer stations, a material recovery facility and a landfill that have been acquired or purchased through a combination of organic and M&A activity.

In all, the company now owns and operates Steel Street Transfer Station in Chesapeake, Virginia, which is a C&D transfer and processing facility; Skinquarter Landfill, which is a greenfield C&D landfill in Richmond, Virginia, that opened in August 2019; Tri-County Recycling, a single-stream and clean recyclable and C&D transfer facility in Hughesville, Maryland; Olive Street Processing, a single-stream material recovery facility in Capitol Heights, Maryland; Recycle One Processing, which is a C&D and MSW transfer facility in Hyattsville, Maryland; and Federal IPC, which is a C&D and MSW transfer station and processing facility in D.C.

The company also has six truck terminals that double as offices and garages where the company conducts business and where its vehicles are serviced.

While all of its facilities complement one another, Magee says the opening of the Skinquarter Landfill was especially instrumental in giving the company the autonomy it needed.

“It gave us a tremendous amount of freedom,” he says. “Now, being vertically integrated, like with many of the big public companies, it gave us the flexibility to be able to internalize waste that we were otherwise paying somebody else to get rid of, so it was huge. It was probably the single-biggest strategic move that we have been able to make over the last five years.”

Despite the company’s recent history of strategic growth and expansion, one thing WB Waste couldn’t plan for was the downturn in business created by the COVID pandemic.

Magee says that being a company focused on commercial roll-off work and waste processing in large metro areas resulted in a substantial drop in volumes.

“We saw our volumes drop pretty significantly last year, especially in the months of March, April and May, which are normally some of our busiest months,” Magee says. “The hotels closed, the restaurants closed, so a lot of our trash volume went down. Initially, we were probably down close to 35 percent right out of the gate. It recovered since then a little bit, but we were still down at the end of the year. When comparing March 2019 through December 2019, to the same period last year, we ended up down about 20 percent in volume year over year.”

Compounding this hit in volumes were challenges brought on by riots in Washington, D.C., in summer 2020 following the death of George Floyd, as well as the Capitol riots at the outset of this year.

“Between the riots last year and this year, and disruptions around the presidential inauguration, we’ve had some difficult things to deal with that are not exactly friendly to us trash guys working in Washington, D.C., but we’ve weathered those storms pretty well,” Magee says.

“One thing I’m proud of with WB Waste is that our employees were very well taken care of throughout all this upheaval—we didn’t lay off one person through this whole thing,” he continued. “We’ve kept our employees and our payroll intact. And we are hoping that this year, as we come out of the winter, business is going to be a lot more robust than what we’ve had over the last year, and we’re prepared for that. So, we’re hopeful for the rest of 2021, but certainly are optimistic about 2022.”

When looking forward to the company’s prospects for the future, Magee points to WB Waste’s recent history as an indication of its upward trajectory. He says that the company has quadrupled in size over the last five years and that its plans are to continue to find avenues to advance the business.

“I would say that there is a lot of runway ahead of us, and a lot of room to maneuver, and we’re going to continue to pursue opportunities for growth over the next few years,” he says.

Asked what has helped the company find success in the competitive landscape in which WB Waste operates, Magee says that the unique structure of the company and the people involved have been instrumental in allowing the company to flourish.

“We bring a unique history. Willie and Bruce grew up in this city, and I have an intimate background in running a big waste company here,” Magee says. “So, from solely an owner’s perspective, there’s probably no group that knows this market better than we do. I also bring some of the back office [knowledge] and other discipline of the public companies with my background. Willie and Bruce have taken the risks and have been tremendously successful from an operations perspective, which is why we complement each other so well. It’s all any of us have ever done in our adult lives, and we just know this market, so I would say that that’s really what sets us apart.

“We’re also all very accessible as owners and all active in the day-to-day business. We don’t build a lot of layers within the company, and we’re not big on titles. We have great managers and employees, but we are truly all teammates that take care of each other. There’s not a day that goes by that the three of us aren’t deep in the trenches asking questions and being involved in decision-making. It’s probably a nontraditional structure than what you would see in a lot of big organizations or other organizations of our size, but it works really well for us.”

The author is the editor of Waste Today and can be contacted at aredling@gie.net.

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