The Long Beach-based environmental contracting and consulting company has significantly expanded and pivoted away from its beginnings 50 years ago as a landfill design company.
“Over the last seven or eight years, we’ve realized the focus of solid waste management is keeping materials out of the landfill and doing everything we can with them to their highest and best use before we have to put them in a landfill,” said Michelle Leonard, a senior vice president for SCS Engineers.
And the shift has appeared to pay off.
In 2019, companywide revenue totaled $239 million, a 25% gain from 2018. Growth was even higher in the company’s Los Angeles County operations, which saw a 73% increase to $25.9 million in revenue in 2019.
With five offices in L.A. County and 68 around the country, SCS employs 922 companywide, including 160 in L.A. County, and offers a wide range of services.
Driving the company’s growth are environmental regulations to reduce the amount of trash that ends up in landfills and the transition that private companies are making to become more sustainable.
Leonard said the company’s ability to adapt and the creativity of its employees to look for emerging issues also contributes to its success.
The solid waste materials management side of the company will comprise about 80% of SCS’ revenue this year.
The company also works with waste haulers and collectors that collect and process recyclables and organic materials.
SCS has worked with the L.A. County Department of Public Works for the past six years to help the agency comply with recycling and organic materials mandates.
Athens Services has been a client for about 15 years, said Christian Warner, Athens’ vice president of government affairs. Warner said he turns to SCS for a range of services.
Most recently, Leonard and her team are going to lead a training on a state law regarding organic waste, Warner said.
“I will usually go to them most of the time, if not the majority of the time, just because I know the results I’m going to get,” he said. “I know it’s going to be good. I know it’s going to be professional.”
Leonard predicts an area of growth for the company will be its work involving the reduction of organic waste and the recovery of edible food, particularly in California where the goal is to reduce the amount of organic waste disposal from 2014 levels by 75% by 2025.
“It’s interesting, we’re typically dealing with garbage, and now we’re learning how to work with the food recovery orgs to help them to capture more of that food as well as distribute it,” Leonard said. “We need to really focus on recovering that and feeding hungry people and keeping that stuff out of the landfill — that’s our big push.”
Energy from methane gas
Energy from methane gas
The company estimates it collects and either reuses or destroys enough greenhouse gases to offset the emissions from 7.4 million passenger cars each year.
One part of the environmental services side of the business is to work with developers and private landowners to assess parcels during real estate transactions and determine whether there is a potential for hazardous materials to have been discharged on the property in the past.
For example, if records indicate there was a dry cleaner on or around the property, it’s likely chemicals may have been discharged, said SCS Senior Vice President Julio Nuno, who leads the environmental services group.
One well-known project that SCS was involved in was Staples Center. SCS worked with the city of Los Angeles’ Redevelopment Agency to assess the properties for development surrounding Staples Center.
A 2012 decision to disband redevelopment agencies in California put the program on hold, but it has been revitalized by the hot real estate market.
Nuno said its real estate business is expected to grow.
“As long as the real estate market continues to be hot, and has been in the last several years for Southern California, in particular … it is economically advantageous for some of our clients to develop properties that have some kind of impact,” he said.
Playing the long game
Playing the long game
“We’re always looking for new opportunities to grow our existing practices as well as to develop new niche markets,” Leonard said. “Some work, some don’t, but that’s how we’ve grown organically for sure.”
Many employees have long tenures. Nuno has been with the company for 38 years. It was his first job out of college.
Earlier this year, the company announced it is 100% employee-owned through an employee stock ownership plan.
Leonard also said that many of the company’s clients are repeat customers.
“The clients know when they call us up, there’s a good chance that person that they started with 10, 15, 20, years ago is still going to be here. There’s a lot of comfort in that,” she said.
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