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Shift Happens:

Local Waste Changes and Challenges the Industry

Local Waste CEO Chris LaBossiere. Photo by EPIC Photography Inc.

Local Waste provides waste and recycling services for businesses, dry waste collection for construction/demolition companies, municipal waste collection for residences, and landfill solutions for the oilfield and industrial sectors – but this is not just another waste management company. Founder and CEO Chris LaBossiere has leveraged 17 years of experience with national public companies and has completely transformed the model to provide a new, innovative, service.

Or, as Local Waste likes to sum it up, #shifthappens.

The shift started in 2016 when LaBossiere acquired Black Cat Disposal.

“Black Cat, owned by Chris and Kim Gadbois, was a small startup looking for a financial and operational partner that understood the industry,” explains LaBossiere. “It all really started with them and they remain minor shareholders. With the controlling share, I rebranded the business to fit my larger vision of how waste services can operate on a local level.”

LaBossiere knows the business inside out. He started in his youth, collecting blue boxes in 1989, and moved through every facet of the industry until he was running multi-million dollar regional projects while overseeing hundreds of employees. Still, he felt something was missing. There was no community connection.

“Waste and recycling are very local services; you need to connect with people,” he says. “Think of it this way – when is the last time you personally met the representative of any multinational organization? What happens if you have an issue as a customer? You are sent to a call centre and sometimes it’s not even based in Canada. Local Waste is dramatically different in that we focus on local as a business and as a community partner. One of our core values is real relationships. We get to know our customers. When we have a collection at a business or restaurant and can also say, ‘we eat or shop here,’ it makes a very big difference. It’s personal.”

However, that doesn’t mean the larger scale processes don’t translate to local service.

“Do not confuse the word local with a lack of sophistication,” he says very firmly. “Multinationals are extraordinary at processes, safety, maintenance, procurement – things that lend towards improving margins through scale. Local Waste has the same safety processes, maintenance practices, technology, procurement procedures and equipment as the bigger guys. We can be just as sophisticated as them, but on a local scale and with operational principles and values that benefit the community on a highly personalized level. We are named Local Waste for a strategic reason, so people can differentiate between our model of service.”

As predicted by LaBossiere, the Local Waste model had a massive impact. Shortly after opening in Edmonton, they laid the groundwork for expansion into Saskatchewan and have since opened a facility in Regina. The six employees have grown to nearly 30 and the company has secured large, long-term contracts as it continues to grow.

“An early milestone for our business was when we were trusted to be the LEED construction recycling provider for the City of Edmonton’s library renovation,” says LaBossiere. “Although we were just getting started at the time, Clark Builders and City of Edmonton selected Local Waste. It felt good to be a tiny company getting a contract way up and above our weight class at the time. We were so successful in helping them achieve waste reduction targets, we were selected for the disposal and recycling contract at the U of A dentistry and pharmacy building project as the exclusive waste contractor, a $295M construction project.”

One recent contract that both demonstrates Local Waste’s philosophy and community commitment is with West Edmonton Mall (WEM).

LaBossiere explains, “The biggest validation of our model to date is our long-term contract with WEM. It is one of the largest independent commercial waste contracts in the city and is extremely sought after by every waste management operator in the region. In competition for this we were up against one of the largest companies in Canada, and they were very aggressive in trying to win the business. Since Local Waste was using the same technology and practices as the competitor, it all came down to our unique proposal in giving back to the community.”

Local Waste proposed a partnership with WEM where a child-based charity would be featured each month. A child fighting a health challenge or doing something extraordinary in the community would be made Mayor of the Mall for a weekend and enjoy a luxury, celebrity experience.

“We presented this program to not just help kids and their families, but find kids in Edmonton doing extraordinary things,” says LaBossiere. “WEM loved it. They knew they could trust us to perform, and they saw our heart and soul in the program. I can’t wait for the kid to be the first to put the sash on and be the Mayor of the Mall for the weekend!” This program will launch at a later date due to COVID.

The pandemic has impacted more than the WEM partnership program. Many of Local Waste’s clients had to temporarily shut their doors. Once again Local Waste’s focus on personalized service came into play.

“We proactively allowed customers affected by pandemic measures to reduce or suspend their services without penalty. Surprisingly not every one of our competitors did this for their customers, citing contracts. We didn’t want to be the ones making it difficult for our customers to survive.”

While welcomed by their clients, this action took a toll.

“It actually pushed us back by two years in our growth and corporate plan,” LaBossiere admits, but he has no regrets. “We lost some revenue, but also created an immense amount of customer loyalty. Ultimately, we just wanted to be part of the solution in helping local businesses survive this thing.”

As part of its client-facing and community mandate, Local Waste isn’t shy about tackling tougher public issues. Around 15 years ago the City of Edmonton decided to enter the commercial waste hauling business. The original reason was to offer various recycling programs to companies using City-owned facilities that private haulers were not allowed to access for their customers. Beyond the unfairness of this, it was revealed in recent years that the majority of what was supposed to be recycled was going directly to landfills because of facility problems. Not to mention, the City was losing millions per year providing commercial services, which industry could provide just as easily, including the recycling programs customers required. LaBossiere helped form a waste and recycling association for Alberta to advocate for the role of the private sector. Eventually the City of Edmonton made the decision to exit commercial services, saving the tax-payer and helping the industry.

“Industry advocacy and education is important because waste management is a very capital intensive business,” LaBossiere explains. “We might need $10 million in capital just to bid on certain opportunities. The industry also faces things like extended producer responsibility and constantly changing regulations. The customer and municipalities are asking for waste programs the community may not have solutions for yet; as an example, commercial organic recycling. We will have to be nimble, flexible and strategic in our partnerships.”

One partnership LaBossiere treasures is with Maggnum Ventures.

“Capital is very important,” LaBossiere reaffirms. “Thankfully we have realized amazing success in partnering with Maggnum Ventures.

LaBossiere first worked with Maggnum Ventures in 2009 when the investment company took an interest in his then-business, Yardstick Software Inc.

Matthew Grieve, president Maggnum Ventures Inc., says, “Maggnum was one of the original investors in Yardstick and we developed a very successful relationship with Chris over the past 10 years while he was CEO of the company. When we heard about Local Waste we fell in love with their story. We are always looking for very unique opportunities that we feel we can add value to and help grow the business with our relationships in Edmonton, and more specifically, in the real estate community. Local Waste’s growth plan is very sound and its revenue stream is vertically integrated with a focus in real estate assets, in which we have a lot of experience. At the end of the day, Maggnum invests in people and we are very confident in Chris, his team and their leadership.”

“From the first time we partnered with Maggnum, we realized we could be successful together,” adds LaBossiere. “They are smart and patient with their capital. We deeply appreciate them. They are very high-character partners and long-game thinkers. They see the big picture. Being associated with partners with local experience and networks is worth so much more than finding cheap money.”

Maggnum Ventures shares LaBossiere’s local vision.

“Local is something we have always focused on,” notes Grieve. “Being able to support something locally where you can see, feel and know the people is very important to me. I feel, now more than ever, we need to invest locally to help with the future of our city, province, and country. We are all in this together and feel entrepreneurs have a knowledge and ability to change the pace of the economy we are currently in. We are a part of that community and we need to invest in our backyard.”

Local Waste is expanding across the prairie provinces rapidly but will never lose sight of its guiding value: an unrelenting community focus. When LaBossiere is driving around the city, he still gets excited to see Local Waste collection bins at homes and businesses, and he takes pride in knowing each of those containers, no matter how large or small the contract, helps to build a better city and provide steady employment.

“Every one of those bins supports people in our company to buy a house, car, or send a kid to lacrosse. Every bin helps us give back to charitable organizations,” says LaBossiere. I don’t have to report our earnings to public company shareholders, so we can choose what we do with our profits – and giving back just feels good.”

As he reflects on the company’s first five years, LaBossiere smiles. “We are a small company with some of the city’s biggest contracts but everyone that works for us started by picking up garbage. That was our first job. None of us graduated with an MBA. We started in the back alleys of Edmonton picking up garbage and recycling, and we grew a company. Our success stems from this fact: we take everything personally. We are honest to a fault. We are authentic, genuine, and work hard at creating real, lasting, personal relationships with our clients and communities, all while showing the industry that you don’t have to be a big player to make a massive industry impact.”

Local Waste is excited to realize the pinnacle of industry success: owning vertically integrated disposal, transfer, and recycling facilities. Their Regina facility opens this spring and will start by diverting construction and demolition recyclables from landfills. An Edmonton transfer station will follow in later 2021.

And it’s nothing but up from there.

“We are currently bidding on an organic food recycling plant to build in Saskatchewan at our landfill facility. We look forward to continued development in Alberta and Saskatchewan. We will also identify other waste companies to acquire or partner with that want to grow with us across Western Canada. These are the types of opportunities we’re excited about. I’m a proud Albertan and I want to see us expand across the prairies first.”

LaBossiere thanks Maggnum Ventures for recognizing Local Waste’s potential and providing seed capital for the acquisition of Black Cat Disposal. He further thanks the Edmonton Executive Association for its supportive membership and the Grieve family for their years of friendship and support. On behalf of Local Waste, LaBossiere thanks the communities in which they operate for allowing them to come to their homes and businesses to make their city cleaner and greener. And to everyone Local Waste says, “just watch how far we go from here.”

Learn more at localwaste.ca.