Aug. 10--The newest company to move its corporate headquarters to downtown Columbia does business the same way a lot of banks do in the 1990s.
It's counting on the acquisition of competitors to get big and produce profits. Employee numbers are being slashed by the hundreds. And it likes having customers such as General Motors and Johnson & Johnson -- the type of clients that are likely to pay bills on time.
The new company generates a lot of cash, but it's not a bank. It's Laidlaw Environmental Services Inc., a familiar name in South Carolina. Problems and legal challenges at its facilities in Pinewood and Roebuck in recent years have kept the company in the public eye even when it didn't want to be there.
A deal earlier this year split Laidlaw Environmental from its giant parent company in Canada, Laidlaw Inc. The new Columbia-based company also merged with Rollins Environmental Services, another U.S. firm, and is now the nation's largest handler of hazardous waste.
"Locally, I think people feel we're against strong regulation and enforcement," said Kenneth Winger, president and CEO of the new Laidlaw Environmental. But that impression is wrong, he says, adding that the company knows that obeying regulations is ultimately good business.
"If we end up with a black eye environmentally, what do our customers think?" he said.
Besides trying to establish a positive image with its neighbors in South Carolina, the company now has a listing on the New York Stock Exchange and 5,600 shareholders to answer to.
The new Laidlaw Environmental expects 1997 revenues of $850 million. That will rank it as South Carolina's seventh-largest public company, ahead of well-known firms such …