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Two family-owned firms vying for recycling contract

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 by Michael Kanin

Negotiations over the right to handle the City of Austin’s residential single stream recycling appear to be winding down. In Fact Daily has learned that all final proposals – including best prices – were due from the two firms competing for the deal by the close of business on Monday.

Last week, Solid Waste Services spokesperson Jennifer Herber said that discussions were indeed entering their final stages. We anticipate negotiations with the private parties will be ending very soon, hopefully within the next week or so,” she wrote in an email to In Fact Daily. “However, we’ll need to then begin some analysis of our own internally. Our goal is to be able to share a decision and more details by the end of February or early March.”

SWS Director Bob Gedert is out of the office until the end of February. Assistant City Manager Howard Lazarus is leading the city’s side in negotiations.


However the city decides to parcel out the deal, the winner will be a local company. Both of the finalists for the contract – Balcones Resources and Texas Disposal Systems – are locally headquartered, family-run organizations.


Kerry Getter’s Balcones Resources began in 1994. It has since grown into a major regional player with $27 million in annual revenues. “We started Balcones here in Austin … with nothing but a PC, a fax machine, and a box of pencils,” he said. “We recycle now about 120,000 tons of material a year.”


Getter’s brother Rusty, who is known as a major industry figure, is Balcones’ President. Getter’s son Richie plays a key role in the firm’s international development efforts. To a man, the Getters site the drive and instincts of family patriarch Richard Getter.


“My brother and father started a (recycling) company in Dallas in ’77, ’78,” said Getter. “(They) were really pioneers in this business.”


The Gregory family runs Texas Disposal Systems. Brothers Bob and Jim founded it in 1977. According to the firm’s web site, they did so “with only $10,000, one customer, one truck and plenty of determination.”


Since then, the Gregorys have widened their business to include municipal waste contracts in central and western Texas in addition to commercial business. They have also diversified their operations to feature composting and recycling.  


Bob Gregory is the CEO. Of his four children, three are directly involved in the business. His daughter’s husband also plays a role. His brother Jim is the vice president, co-owner, and landfill manager.


“We’re committed to family involvement and family ownership long-term,” Gregory said.


The City of Austin has had some struggles with larger solid waste firms. In 1997, East Austin activists forced the relocation of the former BFI recycling center on Bolm Road after a handful of bad neighbor allegations.


More recently, the city ran into trouble with its last single stream recycling contract when it was revealed that it was paying Greenstar Recycling to handle materials that otherwise might have brought revenue. Greenstar is a subsidiary of Dublin-based NTR. Greenstar has alleged that Austin’s current short term deal with Texas Disposal to handle the city’s residential single stream recycling has cost taxpayers over $30,000 since it began in October. Both Texas Disposal and SWS director Gedert dispute their math and insist that the program is now making money (see In Fact Daily, Feb. 8).


City staff has indicated that the new single stream recycling deal could be divided between the two firms or awarded solely to either of them.

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