Denali's Andy McNeill Carries Water for Sustainability

Denali's Andy McNeill Carries Water for Sustainability
Andy McNeill, CEO of Denali Water Solutions of Russellville
Andy McNeill, CEO of Denali Water Solutions, is also an owner of Ramco, an Arkansas solid waste company, and Jackalope Cycling, a bike shop based in Russellville. He has spent almost 19 years in the specialty waste and environmental service industries. Previously, he worked for a decade at Arthur Andersen in management consulting. He sits on civic, charitable and government boards, including the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Common Ground Arkansas, Arkansas Valley Alliance for Economic Development and the Friendship Foundation Board.
McNeill has a bachelor’s in business administration and accounting from Auburn University and an MBA from Notre Dame.

With annual revenue of $400 million, Denali is suddenly one of the largest private companies in Arkansas. What is Denali’s history and who are its customers?

Denali is a specialty waste and environmental services company focused on solutions primarily for waste streams that can be diverted from landfills and recycled or repurposed. The waste streams include water and wastewater treatment plant residuals (biosolids), food processing residuals, food waste and green waste. We recycle the material by composting, land application, animal feed and digestion.

Our primary customers are municipal water and wastewater treatment plants, food processing plants, grocery stores, farmers, landscapers and horticultural companies. Many of the waste streams we manage are the byproduct of cleaning water, which is why the company was named Denali Water Solutions. We have broadened our scope, but the core portion of our business centers on water and wastewater residuals.

Denali already has multiple shareholders, but you haven’t taken it public. Do you plan to?

We have taken great pride in growing our national business from Russellville. Our growth has been through traditional development and acquisition. We continue to create jobs in the River Valley and provide opportunities for our employees and stakeholders. To fund this growth, we have built relationships with various investors. As we continue to grow, we will seriously consider using the public markets. However, “going public” is not in our immediate plan.

Who are your competitors, and is the industry ripe for consolidation?

Our market sits between solid waste on one side and hazardous waste on the other. The waste resources we handle fall across different industry segments and involve various disposal or recycling options. Coupled with hard-to-get permits, which are often unique state by state, our industry is very fragmented. We generally have competitors that are focused on only one end customer or one disposal option.

What are the biggest business challenges for Denali?

There are always challenges. Presently, our most significant issue is hiring. Our growth coupled with a scarcity of potential employees makes it hard to fill all our open positions. This challenge has forced us to look at creative ways to attract new team members.

How has public awareness of the environment affected your business?

Public awareness of environmental issues and sustainable practices has had a direct impact. For example, there is enough available land for society to bury its waste; simply dig a hole and fill it. But just because we can does not always mean we should. It might surprise many people that some of our country’s largest food companies, grocery store chains and wastewater plants are leading the way in advocating for sustainable waste practices. As a result, vast amounts of food waste and green waste are moving away from landfills to be recycled for beneficial use. At Denali, we bring solutions that fit our customers’ unique needs.