Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Waste Management CEO On Finding A New Headquarters

Waste Management President and CEO Jim Fish just took his company on a nationwide quest for possible new sites for the headquarters of the $15-billion North America industry leader.

Waste Management President and CEO Jim Fish just took his company on a nationwide quest for possible new sites for the headquarters of the $15-billion North America industry leader.

The company ended up staying in Houston, where it has some big leases coming up for renewal next year. But Fish and his colleagues picked up some strong insights along the way about what it would have been like to move Waste Management to another city.

Among them: Fish believes that Nashville, Denver and Chicago are generally among the most attractive places to base a company these days, and so is Austin, Texas. But he’s really down on New York and California because of their overall unfriendliness to business. And he’s meh about Boston, where he says the “tax structure isn’t terrible. But New England isn’t centrally located for us.”

Nashville finished No. 2 to Houston, which Waste Management ultimately selected for a number of reasons ranging from the business advantages of Texas to the cultural diversity of Houston itself.

View the complete rankings to the 2019 Best & Worst States for Business.

“It made sense for us to go through the process,” Fish tells Chief Executive. “We evaluated a bunch of different criteria that are really important to us, such as overall business friendliness – and how receptive a city would be to our business, not all business. It’s not so much about waste, but a heavy-industry business with a lot of trucks as opposed to, say, pharmaceutical labs.

“We also looked at tax structure – individual tax structure is important to our employees here, because Texas is one of nine states without a state income tax. There’s the cost of living and the cost of rental space in downtowns. And access to culture – diversity and inclusion.”

After investigation, Nashville placed high on Waste Management’s list based on all of those criteria. But Fish downgraded the rising urban star of Tennessee because “it didn’t have great air service” and is behind other fast-growing cities in automotive infrastructure. The critical mass of its colleges and universities was found wanting. Plus the city didn’t offer Waste Management any financial incentives to move, Fish says.

Chicago was a surprisingly strong possibility because “it’s got a ton of culture” and millennials like it. “It’s also got top-tier universities and a ton of air service” Fish says. And while “it could use a little revitalization, the infrastructure is good.”

Fish even got along well with former Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “We spent a lot of time with him and his team,” Fish recalls. “I told him, ‘I wasn’t crazy about you when you were in the Obama administration, but now I really like you.’ He laughed … So I think Chicago is very business-friendly.

“What hurt Chicago in our minds was its tax structure, and the cost of living,” Fish says. “You’ve got to be able to attract employees.”

Austin got a peek from Waste Management because of its increasing allure for millennial workers and its diverse culture. But the cost of living there is relatively high for Texas, Fish says, and its infrastructure hasn’t kept up with growth.

Fish gave California a glance long enough to confirm he would be right to look away. “California is a great place to visit, but we had some real issues” with its basic unattractiveness for doing business, Fish says. “Except for tech, California isn’t very business-friendly, and that’s tough. The tax structure obviously is a major issue.

“And especially in the [San Francisco] Bay Area, the cost of living is off the charts. It’s really attractive to millennials but they’re going to have to pay $4,000 a month for a 1,500-square-foot apartment. There were zero incentives for us to move out there.”

Read more: The Texas Formula: How They Keep Winning Over CEOs


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.