Meridian Waste, Charlotte, North Carolina, made news when it acquired the Raleigh, North Carolina-based Shotwell Companies.
Walter “Wally” Hall, CEO of Meridian Waste, spoke with Construction & Demolition Recycling about the acquisition and the company’s larger goal of expansion in the Southeast.
Construction & Demolition Recycling (CDR): You just completed your 11th acquisition since partnering with Warren Equity Partners in April 2018. What is your philosophy in pursuing this aggressive growth strategy?
Wally Hall (WH): Meridian Waste is a company defined by a strong commitment to serving its customers, caring for and engaging employees and generating financial value for shareholders while providing a clean and healthy community.
Acquisitions, both small and large, will always be a core element of the company’s growth strategy. The solid waste industry is cyclical in nature and what Meridian Waste is experiencing now is very similar to the late 1990s and early 2000s, and before, in the 1970s and 1980s. Major consolidation is taking place within the industry, creating a unique space for a midsized, well-funded, independent and experienced environmental services team. We are stepping in and fulfilling the void left by consolidation throughout the industry currently at elevated national and local levels.
Meridian Waste has the flexibility, out-of-the-box thinking and access to financial resources via a very positive relationship with our equity partner, Warren Equity Partners. Together, we identify and fund acquisition targets. There are hundreds of closed acquisitions and integrations completed under the teams’ cumulative history with previous solid waste companies. With Meridian Waste as a relatively young but nimble company, we can efficiently negotiate fair purchase agreements, fund closure quickly and integrate the operating assets successfully.
CDR: Given your recent activity, is there a particular segment of the market or geographic location you’re looking to expand in?
WH: Meridian Waste is keenly interested in expanding its operational footprint and densifying its collection and disposal assets throughout the Southeast. The region is a market that has the land mass capacity to grow and develop, expand in population and it has new and pending construction and demolition project permits that are plentiful. Also, tuck-in along with new market acquisition opportunities are available. The Southeast is a geographic location where our leadership team is extremely familiar having built and operated the original core Advanced Disposal assets throughout the first 12 years of the company’s 19-year history.
CDR: You just acquired the Shotwell Companies. Can you describe how you envision their team integrating with your company?
WH: The Shotwell Companies acquisition in Raleigh closed in early January. The acquisition marked Meridian Waste’s entry into a brand-new marketplace for the company. The uniqueness of this transaction is that it immediately created a fully integrated operation within a new geographic location. The Shotwell C&D Landfill along with the presence of existing C&D transfer stations readies the company to benefit from the significant construction boom across what is known as The Triangle, a region in the Piedmont area of North Carolina. With the opening of the nearby Morrisville Transfer Station, the company will begin internalizing MSW loads from the Raleigh-Durham area at its Lunenburg Landfill in southern Virginia by the end of the first quarter.
One of the attractions of the Shotwell acquisition was the enthusiasm of its local management and ownership team to work within the Meridian Waste management structure and gain access to capital to expand operations. All Shotwell Company employees transitioned to Meridian Waste as team members, and they are excited about the opportunities ahead. Meridian Waste has expanded services to include permanent roll-off solid waste collection (previously the Shotwell Companies solely collected C&D materials), and the company will be entering into the frontload commercial line of business before year’s end. The integration has gone smoothly, and all accounting and operational software systems have transitioned to Meridian Waste platforms. Marketing and branding are ongoing initiatives. The red, white and blue colors on Meridian Waste trucks will be on the streets of the Raleigh marketplace in the upcoming weeks.
CDR: How did you first become affiliated with their team and what attracted you to their organization?
WH: When you’ve been in the garbage business as long as I have, you meet many people along the way. Potential acquisitions which don’t originally come to fruition can re-emerge and be successful in later years. That’s my story with the Shotwell Companies. I met Shotwell’s owner, David King, in my previous role as co-founder and COO of Advanced Disposal. David is a down-to-earth, feet-on-the-ground kind of owner—just the type I like to have on my team. His passion for his business and customers was evident, and combined with a dash of cockiness and well-deserved sense of accomplishment, this made him a tough character to forget! It was under Meridian Waste that the stars aligned, and a deal was forged to buy the Shotwell Companies and its network of disposal assets, including landfill and three transfer stations, making it such a powerful play for the company.
CDR: What does this acquisition bring to the table for your team?
WH: The answer to this question is simple and two-fold: 1) Immediate C&D waste as well as MSW waste internalization, and 2) A strong springboard for both hauling and disposal growth and expansion in the fastest-growing city in North Carolina, which is the 33rd fastest-growing marketplace in the United States.
CDR: Anything else important to note that I didn’t ask (future plans, goals, etc.)?
WH: Given your publication’s audience, I want to share my position on the C&D market and why Meridian Waste is bullish on C&D disposal and hauling investments and acquisitions. Some of Meridian Waste’s largest acquisitions have had at their very core, C&D disposal facilities. In November 2018, we acquired a Knoxville, Tennessee, marketplace acquisition with Knoxville Landfills LLC which included two C&D landfills and related hauling assets. In January 2020, we acquired the Shotwell Companies including the Shotwell C&D Landfill, plus two C&D transfer stations. We are seeing in these locations, and in many other operating locations, that C&D disposal pricing is meeting or exceeding MSW disposal pricing and that there is strong demand for hauling services. Just like any real estate transaction, location is at the very heart of the success of the deal. However, when a growth location can be paired with a viable C&D disposal facility and efficient operational hauling support, the results can produce strong financial earnings and a base of business for expanding additional environmental services lines of business. We are committed to C&D investments and foresee additional growth in this sector in key locations.