- Waste Management weighed moving its Houston headquarters to Chicago, Denver or Nashville, Tennessee, according to a recent story from the Houston Chronicle.
- Instead, as previously reported, the company will be relocating to a brand new building in downtown Houston next year. This move will combine operations from two separate buildings into nine floors and 284,000 square feet of space at Capitol Tower.
- CEO Jim Fish also told the Chronicle his team is meeting with an unidentified company next month to discuss future autonomous vehicle pilots. He described competitors, including Republic Services, as being less advanced in the area of technology, saying, "I think they think we’re nuts, which is fine."
This interview was the latest in a series of branding efforts by Waste Management to keep up with newer competitors touting their own new technology, as well as to recruit the next generation of employees.
The Chronicle story touched on the usual highlights of an automonous bulldozer pilot in Colorado, a "recycling plant of the future" in Chicago, a new strategy led by its "chief digital officer" hired in 2017, upcoming plans for predictive maintenance and a professed interest in exploring alternatives to landfills.
Beyond the competitive edge Waste Management hopes to see from these new initiatives — both in terms of becoming more attractive to customers and making its operations more efficient — recruitment opportunities are a key underlying factor. Bringing in younger and more diverse candidates for corporate positions, not just frontline roles, has been stated as a priority in the past.
When the new lease was first announced in November, Fish said the move to Capitol Tower was "one of the many ways we are focused on investing in our people," touting the LEED Platinum-certified building's sustainability profile. According to the building's website, its design "reflects a shift towards a newer, younger, and greener Houston" in an open campus format. In contrast, Fish described the company's existing offices as being tethered to the 1980s.
First City Tower, home to Waste Management's executive offices, was built in 1981. While the building's lobby has a modern aesthetic, the company's offices themselves evoke a more traditional look of heavy furniture and segmented spaces. USA Waste signed a lease for the current offices in 1996 after acquiring locally-based Sanifill. Waste Management made the move from its original location in the Chicago suburbs after the two companies merged in 1998.
While it's not unprecedented for companies move their headquarters, the Texas market's business-friendly reputation is clearly attractive. Waste Connections announced plans for a move to the Houston suburbs in 2011 after chafing at California's regulatory climate. FCC Environmental – the U.S. arm of a Spanish major – chose to set up shop in Texas itself and will be moving to Houston soon. WCA Waste Corporation and Strategic Materials are also based in the city.
Houston, of course, is also where Browning-Ferris Industries got its start more than 50 years ago and went on to become the industry's first major publicly-traded company. Given that history, it may be fitting that the industry's current largest company is staying put.