Waste Management earns national award

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 2004

An award won by workers at Waste Management in Natchez sends an important message, said James H. Funderburg, district manager, who received the award in March at a nationwide meeting of the corporation.

&uot;It’s pretty remarkable that we could do that,&uot; Funderburg said. &uot;And it’s not just good for Natchez people to know but also for prospective industries. Here is proof of our workforce excellence.&uot;

The company has been focused on improvements in the last few years, and the idea of rewarding the workers who best met the challenging criteria grew out of those efforts, Funderburg said.

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&uot;Within the last few years, Waste Management has been trying to get better &045;&045; better customer service, productivity, bottom line and safety. And they came up with a way to measure it. Natchez had the best numbers in the whole Southern group,&uot; he said.

Natchez Hauling, the company located on Wall Street and the one holding a contract with the City of Natchez, employs from 20 to 25 people. &uot;It’s a good group of guys. We don’t have much turnover,&uot; Funderburg said.

The company cares for its employees and wants them for the long term. &uot;We want to keep our employees, and we treat them well. Our benefit plan is among the top 10 in America, with full medical coverage, a 401(k) plan and life insurance, a nice package,&uot; he said.

Ages of Natchez workers range from 26 to 53. Wages are competitive for the region, based on the cost of living in the area.

&uot;These are good jobs. These are more than jobs. These are careers with a Fortune 200 company,&uot; Funderburg said.

Johnny Johnson, an employee with the company for eight years, is route manager. He said the award is a big honor for the Natchez workers.

&uot;They’re tickled to death. It was a big surprise for us,&uot; Johnson said. &uot;We have good people with good personalities and good attitudes.&uot;

The men working on the streets every day perform as a team, Johnson said. And they handle well the daily challenges to be safe and stay cool under stress, Johnson said.

Waste Management is the largest waste-collection provider in the country, with 429 collection operations, 366 transfer stations, 289 landfills, 17 waste-to-energy plants, 138 recycling plants and 85 beneficial-use landfill gas projects.

As district manager, Funderburg also oversees operations of the Plantation Oaks Landfill in Sibley and the operations in Summit.

He joined Waste Management in 1998 and moved from a ground-level position into the district manager position in three years.

A graduate of the University of Mississippi with degrees in chemistry and biology, he always had been interested in environmental fields, Funderburg said. &uot;And that is what we are all about.&uot;

He is proud of the community involvement of the company. &uot;We are going to be involved in the community,&uot; he said. &uot;You’ll find very few events we aren’t going to donate to, either monetary donations or otherwise.&uot;

Waste Management puts money back into the city, county and state, he said. &uot;For every ton going into the landfill, a dollar goes to Natchez,

a dollar to Adams County and a dollar to the state of Mississippi,&uot; he said. &uot;Last year, $175,000 went to Natchez and Adams County. In addition, 5 percent of everything we do in Natchez is paid to the city. That was about $40,000 last year.&uot;

The hauling company also picks up waste in Jefferson County, Crosby and Gloster.

&uot;You hear negative things about our workforce. But I say this is pretty impressive,&uot; he said of the company award.