Perseverance Pays Off In Portland

For 50 years, Heiberg Garbage Service has survived the bumps and bruises of ever-changing industry demands and Portland's progressive policy changes.

The family-owned company came on the scene in 1947, when Verne Heiberg acquired a route in Sellwood, Ore., and made Heiberg the sixth licensed garbage company in Portland. Now, it competes with approximately 60 firms that operate throughout the metropolitan area.

When Verne's son, Bruce, purchased the company from his father in 1973, it operated one truck - a 1966 International rear loader.

"It was five speed on the column with no split rear end. It was definitely an under-powered and under-geared old truck," remembers Bruce's brother and partner, Brian.

Heiberg grew in 1979 when it purchased a Volvo rear-loader, which enabled it to reduce landfill trips by nearly 50 percent.

Today, the company manages a fleet of equipment including the Volvo, three Lodal's, a 20-yard Heil rear loader, a 20-yard Leach, a 20-yard Garwood, a 27-yard Kann curb-sorter recycling truck, a 40-yard Able Body frontend loader, and two drop box trucks.

Competition pushed Heiberg to acquire this additional equipment, and the investment paid off. Since 1972, Heiberg's residential business has increased from 1,200 homes to approximately 6,000.

Additionally, its commercial account business has grown from very nominal activity 15 years ago to more than 600 accounts. Much of this growth was due to the acquisition of smaller companies.

"When we first started, we did one thing: pick up garbage," Brian said. "Today, we also are involved in commercial business hauling and recycling. The business is intense and demanding, but re-warding."

Spurring this market growth was Portland's 1992 decision to institute residential franchising, which affected only residential accounts that were four unit complexes or smaller.

"It [residential franchising] has allowed us to become more efficient in our operations, which, in turn, allowed us to provide a comprehensive garbage collection, recycling and yard debris pick-up program at an affordable price to our customers," Brian said.

"It didn't make us more compe-titive in the residential market, but it enabled us to control our expenses and cost to our customers."