Profile: WRS Environmental Services Visualizes a Strong Future

Despite what American businessman Bert Lance famously advised in 1977—“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”—sometimes a complete overhaul is the best next step for a company that’s doing well but could be doing great.

In the case of WRS Environmental Services, the vision CEO Michael Rodgers had for his business required that he and his partner, WRS president Thomas Arabia, revise the direction in which they were headed and institute major changes. That strategy is still paying dividends as the eighteen-year-old company successfully weathers the economic downturn and heads into its future with a strong tailwind.

“About seven years ago, we started a ground-up re-creation of the company,” Rodgers explains. Because they believed their employees were key to everything they wanted to accomplish, WRS made a commitment to unionize the company.

“We’re the only environmental company in the region that has a unionized work force—unionized because we wanted a vehicle to attract the best.” WRS’s wages and benefits packages continue to be an enticement that provides the company with a huge block of talent from which to choose.

Ralph Ranghelli, Executive Vice President, adds, “Development of your workforce is key. The extensive training we provide is one of the factors that I think distinguishes us. We have a talented workforce that has been with us a long time, and we’re competing in a market that is 99.9 percent non-union.”

Visionary Leader
WRS Environmental Services was formed in 1992, as Waste Recycling Solutions; but when the limitations of the term “waste” got in the way of how the company saw itself, the name was changed to incorporate its new image of its future. Today the ninety-person-strong company has its headquarters on Long Island in Yaphank, New York, and comprehensive satellite offices in Brooklyn and outside of Utica, New York, in Poland. It provides a broad range of specialized and customized services—from 24/7 land and marine environmental emergency response, hazardous remediation and training and security, to water treatment and de-watering systems management and maintenance, vacuum excavation, pumping and vacuuming, and transport and disposal. It has strategic partnerships with all the utilities in the Northeast region: Consolidated Edison, National Grid, and New York Power Authority.

Ranghelli doesn’t hesitate to boast of Rodgers’s capabilities as CEO in charge of all daily operations. “Mike is sort of a visionary—he can look at opportunities and portray in his mind a strategic plan that can be executed to keep us in the forefront of the industry. Without that, this company would not have grown and expanded as it did.”

Challenges that Distinguish WRS
“One of the first challenges was changing the company, and it goes on today,” says Rodgers. “The second one was building strategic partnerships with the utilities in the region. The third was attracting employees, giving them a lot of power in the hiring and training, and not being afraid to look for perfection. And then we stepped it up to the equipment. We definitely have the best equipment in the industry.”

When Rodgers began to see what his own limitations were, he went looking for people who could advise him. “And that’s where Ralph came in.” Ranghelli’s extensive background is in the utility business and has included several years’ direct involvement in union relationships. WRS’s CFO, Anthony Nozzolillo, held a position overseeing thousands of employees at another utility company.

“We believe that people are the way to get to the right people,” says Rodgers.

And the Difference Is…
“Another thing that distinguishes us,” Ranghelli says, “is that we can improvise—we can customize—any of our services. We often find ourselves confronted with situations beyond the norm. We have the nimbleness and agility to tailor operations to meet their requirements.”

However, the extremely high level of service and capabilities that WRS offers its clients doesn’t come cheap.

“Because of the direction we chose, we took an environmental company and made it one of the more expensive companies out there for utility companies to use,” Rodgers acknowledges. “The only way we could overcome that was to give quality of service. We’re the furthest thing from the cheapest, but when everyone is cutting costs, we still have the ability to grow because of the services we give. ‘Value added.’ Everyone in the company knows that term.”

WRS responds to more than 1,200 emergencies a year including environmental spills, vehicles hitting utility poles, hazmat incidents, and more. The company guarantees a response in two hours or less, which it handles using a finely tuned, multi-stage process that operates 24/7. From the customer, the report goes directly to the supervisory group, where they are intimately familiar with the steps to develop the response plan. The on-call duty supervisor dispatches the appropriate teams, which might include hazmat technicians and highly trained specialized equipment operators.

“It’s never dull,” Rodgers happily concedes. “There’s always excitement. And every single day there’s a new challenge, with opportunities out there to strategically plan where the company is going to go.”

Looking Ahead
“We’ve had to look very closely at our internal expenses to bring them down as low as possible,” says Rodgers about the changing economic landscape. “Anyone who is willing to make the commitment we’ve made, they will be fine. The weaker companies will have a more difficult time of it. We’ll have to restructure a little bit.

“The part of our business where we support the general contractors who work with the utilities has slowed because utilities have postponed some capital expenditures. However, that’s temporary. They can’t put off those projects indefinitely.”

WRS’s future appears to be pretty green in other ways, too.

“We’re looking into ‘green’ technology, which is really the buzz word in the industry. Utilities will be the driver, and we see ourselves as supporting them in that. Through our union affiliations, we’re putting people through specialized training on such things as solar panels.”

WRS uses fourteen very quiet vacuum trucks—each one a $300 thousand to $425 thousand investment, and each with slightly different capabilities—that meet acceptable noise pollution standards set by the New York Power Authority. The trucks also conform to diesel regulations for emissions.

Rodgers recognizes the need. “It’s hard to be in an environmental corporation and have a vehicle that’s polluting…right?”

To learn more about WRS Environmental Services, visit




Story by Anne Biggs


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One Response to “Profile: WRS Environmental Services Visualizes a Strong Future”

  1. William T Morris 08. Feb, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    In todays market place, Price is boss. Paying union labor rates while trying to stay competitive within the maket place is always a up hill obstacle. 1st, Your Union Employees must have the hunger for the same success the company desires to achieve, Having dealing with and working within local 1&2 over the last 7 years around the metropolitan New york area as a Environmental project manager has only shown me extreme waste in hourly wages and the apptitude of the same employee’s as to how they can make there next hour of overtime. If the overtime of the employee is not made the mindset of that employee now becomes resentfull and the process of the work being performed and completed becomes of less of an importance resulting in lost profits. Lets face it , Most are out for themselves. To actually achieve success and growth within your Corporation you will have to change the thinking process of your Employee’s. First you would have to weed out the dysfunctional individuals who no matter what they’re pay and benifits are, They are never happy. Dysfunction breeds and spreads dysfunction within the work force. A grateful person always produces and is happy to do so. Middle management must choose the proper wording when dealing with the employee to keep his attitude positive and comfortable. I’m also a firm believer of upper management on occasion making appearances in the field with there work attire and picking up a shovel next to the laborer and working with him to show you are willing to work in the same direction you are trying to promote. This in the past has always won me respect with the toughest of them. Don’t try to install in me for your proffit what you will not do your self. It works. Human nature is human nature, People like to be thanked for what they do even though they are being paid. Not by upper management but by the owner himself. To have gratitude within the workforce one must show gratitude for what they have. Second, Profit sharring, Now you may say I’m already paying Union rates and you are. But to show a employee that if the company reaches its goals then a reward system is in place changes the employees attitude and creates a team atmosphere that will weed out naturaly any dysfunction within the workforce keeping it positive and healthy and in balance.
    Third, Working around the major utilities with outside contractors is not working for the major utilities. Multi million dollar contracts must be competitvely bid and won with the major utilities. Price is king. To be competetive you must work sensible and smart. Each job must be well thought out and planned, Failure to plan is a plan for failure. This takes smart management, Not management with excellent lip service. well seasoned persons from in the industry must be sought out and lured into your organization. The same positive concepts that you install into your employees must be installed into your management. Management are people too, they also need to be thanked for what they do. Fourth, When something is going wrong within my group I do not point the finger to blame. I must inventory my actions and decsions first. Everyone must work as a team. President’s to upper mangement. Upper management to middle management, And the workers together with the same goal.
    It’s all about everyone being prosperous with positve attitudes.
    I believe your companies outloook and your perception of it are well defined. But in order for it to work change must take place. The environmental needs of the world are not going to go away any time soon so you have plenty of time to work on it and achieve your goals and visions.

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