Good Earth sells nobility
May 31, 2006
He calls his biggest competition "partner" and knows the garage door codes for many Park City residents, including several of the Park City elite. He is, or has been, a city councilman, ski instructor and Big Brother. He’s also an inventor with several patents. To say the least, he’s not your normal businessman.
Joe Kernan, owner of Good Earth Recycling, does, however, have many similarities with other business owners in Park City. He came to Utah as a self-proclaimed ski bum, but soon realized that didn’t pay the bills. So he did what many have done he became a business owner.
"The owners of Good Earth were looking to sell the company and find a new manager," Kernan said. "I was a top choice for the managing job, but instead I just offered to buy the company. That was that."
Good Earth Recycling covers all of Summit County, but most clients live in Park City. Wanting to expand his coverage area, Kernan partnered Dirk and Shirin Spangenberg to start County Curbside Recycling. The Spangenbergs own Curb It Recycling Good Earth’s main competition.
"We compete directly against each other with Curb It and Good Earth, but we share resources and information" Kernan said. "But it’s a healthy competitiveness. We’ll bail each other out if someone is in a jam. We’re competition, but we’re also there to help."
With only two employees, a flat bed truck and three pick-ups, sometimes that help is needed. Kernan said there are times, such as during the Sundance Film Festival, when he needs a couple extra workers and one or two more trucks.
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Good Earth serves residences throughout Summit County, charging between $10 and $15 per pickup.
"We help them not just transport it from their home, but give them whatever level of service they desire, which can include packing, sorting, loading, and so on," he said. "County Curbside picks up at curbside, but most of our residential gross come from us using a garage code and getting it out of the garage. That way our customers don’t even have to mess with it.
"I’d like to say that we’re selling nobility. We’re making it easy for people to participate in something noble."
Good Earth is making it easy for businesses to participate in something noble as well.
"The most volume, and probably some of the heaviest work, is restaurants and businesses," Kernan said. "There’s a real strong business climate here with a lot of people recycling."
Usually Kernan has a 6 a.m. start to his day, serving area businesses for three hours until 9 a.m., when he starts residential pickups. The day ends with pickups at condominium complexes, and then starts over the next morning. The only thing that gets in his way is weather.
Once the goods are picked up and sorted, they are brought to the Park City Recycling Plant and shipped from there. The majority of recycled goods go to make wall insulation at plants in Salt Lake City, but metals go out of state, possibly to end up as a soda can in Kernan’s homeland of the Midwest.
Kernan moved to Park City from Pittsburgh in 1993 to find something that just couldn’t be found in Pennsylvania.
"I came back here to find that outdoor lifestyle and hopefully a job too," he said. "In Pitt you have to drive over an hour for good mountain biking. You really don’t get to play much."
Kernan earned a degree in finance from the University of Utah before moving to Pittsburgh, and said it was his college time in Utah that won him over.
Despite loving Utah while he went to school, he spent his junior year on a study abroad program in Northern Ireland.
"I left the U a young college Republican, and, after living in an extremely liberal environment, came home almost a Democrat," he said. "I try more to understand the different viewpoints now, rather than having a whole lot a allegiance to one idea and one party. I’m much more open."
Kernan said he loves his job because it allows him to explore other things, such as politics and inventing. He has served as a Park City councilman for almost three years and has been an inventor every since he can remember.
"Right now my job supplies me with income and free time. I like it," he said. "But if it were a perfect world, I would just get to invent things."
Although he feels being involved in politics has been a wonderful opportunity, he also said it has been one of his biggest trials.
"It’s taught me a lot about the value of building and maintaining strong relationships," Kernan said. "It’s been great but very challenging like taking an honors courses at the U. You like it when you’re done, but while you’re doing it can be just a little too much at times."
Good Earth Recycling can be reached at (435) 655-0272.
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