Terry B. Jones Publisher, New Orleans Data News Weekly
Building A Successful Business
It’s been over four decades since Metro Service Group (Formerly Metro Disposal) was founded in 1982. Since its inception, the business has grown from a single-axle, rear loading truck into a major industrial services firm that serves the Southeastern region of the United States, with offices in Baton Rouge, LA, Hattiesburg, MS, Pensacola, FL and Atlanta, GA.
Under the leadership of brothers Jimmie Woods, Sr. and Glenn H. Woods, Sr., they have become a major force in business in the City of New Orleans. Additionally, they are an inspiration to other Black businesses and continue giving back to the community. Data News Weekly had the opportunity to speak to Metro’s Co-Founder and CEO, Jimmie Woods, Sr., about how they continue to thrive and make a positive impact in New Orleans and beyond.
The Building Blocks of Success: A Brick-by-Brick Approach
In the City of New Orleans and beyond, Metro is still a viable business with a vision focused on providing great service for its clients and plans for expansion. “We still have a lot of private clients in the City of New Orleans,” says Woods. Continuing his remarks he says, “municipal contracts are only one part of our business, we have always worked with the business community from the very beginning. It was Black businesses and property owners who gave us a chance, and we grew our business to where we are now as a multimillion-dollar company where we operate in multiple states.”
Although today, Metro enjoys much success, and is an example for how to build from the ground up, reminiscing about their journey he says, “We used to keep those trucks together with duct tape and bubble gum. We didn’t inherit, we had to build it on our side.”
While Metro is a success story, Woods is a visionary, who has his sights set on building a Black-owned, multi-billion-dollar company headquartered in New Orleans. Recently, the company was a part of a joint venture team that helped to build the City’s new airport. Woods feels this is an important step for Black businesses, to move from subcontractors to having a larger stake in business opportunities, coming through the City of New Orleans and other cities as well.
“In the airport deal and others we are pursuing, we insist on being a joint venturer and not a subcontractor. We are working out at the New Orleans airport every day and we have an equity stake; we were committed to pushing the envelope. We have now positioned the company where major companies could not tell us no, because we bring resources and a resume to be at the table.”
Also, Woods mentions the “low hanging fruit” that is African American political leadership throughout the region and nation who can work to grow Black businesses by being intentional regarding bringing in qualified businesses to do some of the work on governmental contracts. “We have had public officials with the will to provide opportunities for African American businesses to compete for city contracts; many do not have the same intentionality today. With the number of African Americans in elected leadership in the southeast region, I thought we would be in 100-150 cities. Although, that is not the case presently, it is still a goal for us at Metro to expand our footprint.”
Commitment to Competence and Having a Good Name
While Metro continues to be a company that’s done excellent work, and over the years has built a reputation of quality service for its clients and customers, a recent problem with the City of New Orleans caused what was a perception problem and contributed to the company’s no longer operating as the City’s largest collector of garbage. Dismayed by what he feels was an unfair decision by the city government that may have been politically motivated, Woods believes that a recent report by “Fox 8” shed light on this and in some ways has vindicated the company’s good name.
“Rhetoric is one thing, but the numbers do not lie,” Woods says with passion. “Lee Zurik put it out there based on information we and the city provided them. Every month Metro was picking up more tonnage than average. We were exceeding expectations.”
The report noted between 2013 and 2018, New Orleans residents consistently ranked trash collection as one of the best city services in quality-of-life surveys conducted by the University of New Orleans. It also stated after “FOX 8” reviewed hundreds of pages of invoices and documents related to the city’s garbage collection contracts they found the City likely shortchanged its garbage collectors millions of dollars in revenue, preventing them from hiring more workers and possibly contributing to the garbage crisis the City now faces.
Further, the report stated that not just Metro, but Richard’s Disposal was also affected stating: “While the city declared emergencies for both COVID and following Hurricane Ida, it refused to pay Metro and its other trash contractor, Richard’s Disposal, any additional money for the extra tonnage the companies picked up.”
Woods believes the solid reputation Metro built was unjustly damaged by false allegations by those at the Mayor’s office, “As a standup guy who believes in accountability, I made the apology to the public, but my guys did not fall down on the job, and we continued to pick up more waste as best we could while not being compensated adequately by the City.” Without malice in his voice, Woods feels that the present administration for whatever reason is not doing an adequate job of governing and leading the City. “Today, there are levels of incompetence in city government. I believe the mayor may be a nice enough lady, but I don’t see a lot of executive leadership around her, and I don’t know if she is a bad judge of talent or doesn’t know any better. But the City deserves better from City Hall right now, given what is happening in so many areas.”
Woods continues, “I feel the injustice that was done to Metro speaks volumes. We took our role seriously, so I am glad this report came out to help and, in some way, can help work to restore our good name, not just in the City of New Orleans, but all over this country as we continue to expand into other cities.”
Serving the Community
Metro, under the leadership of the Woods family, continues to believe in investing in the people of the City of New Orleans by giving back. “We are in the business of helping those in need. We contribute to many causes across this City.” Woods, also serves as member of the LSU Board of Supervisors, who believes investing in the future of New Orleans and its surrounding areas, “It feels good to give back and bless others because we have been so blessed. In addition, we at Metro believe in giving a chance for people to work at our company and take care of and provide for their families.”
This is what Woods describes as part of the legacy and an example of what Black businesses should do. “We must support and stand with our community. Also, we must mentor other businesses and help them build capacity and share the tools and guidance to be successful. This is what we live to do at Metro.”
The Future of Black Businesses in New Orleans
The question for Black businesses today is one of sustainability. Woods understands that what is key is staying true to your mission and vision. The story of Metro is one of resilience and in some ways a cautionary tale for Black businesses. For sometimes, you can perform at or beyond the level of expectation and still find yourself the victim of attacks on your ability and competence. The Woods brothers and their team over at Metro have weathered this storm and continue to do work around the City and nation. Their growth plans continue to be ambitious, because they believe the City of New Orleans can become a place where there is a vibrant Black business community.
“We have built this company over four decades, and what we realize is that political administrations come and go, but Metro continues to be in business. We will continue to fight for our good name, serve and give back to our community and inspire our citizens. We at Metro are poised to continue to keep growing our business, to not only survive but thrive.”