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Cleaning up business

Dependable Disposal

When Leroy and Vickie Lausen moved to Alaska in the early 1990s they were looking for a way to support their family with more than what was being offered in their small town in Montana.

“We chased the American dream,” said Vickie Lausen.

But that dream didn’t exactly turn out the way they planned. Vickie owned a beauty salon and Leroy went to work on the North Slope, a job that kept him away from his family for weeks at a time. With three of their four children still at home, those long periods away just weren’t conducive for the Lausen family. So they started looking for other business opportunities. It didn’t take them long to find one. It came in the form of garbage.

The only garbage collection business in the Denali Borough at the time mainly served just a few large commercial businesses in Healy and the Denali National Park, leaving residential garbage disposal up to the individuals.

“A couple of my (salon) customers spoke to us about a real need (for another garbage collection business),” said Vickie Lausen.

So during one of Leroy’s breaks from work on the North Slope, the two sat down and talked about the possibility of opening a garbage collection company that focused on residential trash pick up. This was just what they needed to make a living, while being able to have Leroy home with the kids.

After putting together a business plan the Lausens took their idea to First National Bank Alaska, where they were approved for a loan. They used that money to buy their first garbage truck. Leroy went to Portland, Ore. to buy the used truck and drove it back to Alaska.

With the help of First National, the Lausens bought their first garbage truck for Dependable Disposal. Now they have a total of four in their fleet.

But even though the truck made it safely to Alaska, it gave up right at the end.

“The garbage truck broke right when it got in our yard in Healy,” said Vickie Lausen.

That bump in the road didn’t deter the Lausens. As soon as they fixed the truck their new business, Dependable Disposal, was born.

“I thought, ‘If we can just do $100,000 a year we would just be in hog heaven’ and we went over that in the first year,” said Lausen.

Business continued to grow rapidly and the success of the business really centered around everyone in the family pitching in. While mainly Leroy drove the garbage truck and collected the trash at first, the kids helped out too. Sometimes when they were riding around with Leroy they would throw the lighter garbage in the back of the truck. The kids also had the task of keeping the truck clean. Eventually, along with picking up residential garbage, the Lausens were hired to haul off construction waste for two major construction projects, the Healy power plant and the Denali Princess Lodge. These jobs required them to purchase 30-foot dumpsters.

In 2003 when construction started to slow, the Lausens expanded their company by purchasing a local septic pumping and portable toilet company.

Today Dependable Disposal has four garbage trucks, 200 containers, three septic trucks and 150 portable toilets.

With business growing, they continue to trust First National with their banking needs, especially commercial loans.

Vickie Lausen says when it comes to applying for a commercial loan, knowing her loan officer is important because as far as she’s concerned there are a few things you just shouldn’t talk about with strangers: politics, other people’s children and money.

“Money is very personal and when you discuss that it’s got to be with someone you trust.”

That “someone” for the Lausens is loan officer and new Healy Branch Manager Teri Simmons. Vickie Lausen says one of the biggest reasons she and her husband trust Simmons is that she understands their vision for Dependable Disposal. Lausen also says being able to sit down and talk to Simmons face-to-face and not just over the phone lets her know that she is valued as a customer.

“The personal contact is huge (when it comes to building trust,)” said Lausen.

Even though Dependable Disposal wasn’t the American dream the Lausens thought they’d find, it’s one that has given them a chance to turn trash into cash and also build lasting business relationships with a bank that fits their needs.

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