Novus Wood Group Offers Innovative Customer Solutions
From helping the cities of Pasadena and New Orleans and Galveston County clean up after devastating hurricanes to brush grinding for southeast Texas towns, the Novus Wood Group of Houston has spent the past 26 years offering innovative solutions for its customers. What started as a landfill venture by Bill Winters in 1985 has evolved into a profitable wood recycling business today.
"In Latin, Novus means new and innovative, which describes our philosophy and unique approach to managing our wood business since 1990," noted Steve Ghormley, the company's Vice President. "We were recycling before recycling was cool."
Novus currently has 44 employees and recycling plants in Houston and Dickinson. Its services for the nine-county Houston-Galveston region include land clearing, storm debris management, municipal brush grinding, industrial wood processing, utility vegetation management, and collection and transportation services.
Separating from the Competition
Providing grinding service for hundreds of customers, including many industrial companies, is the foundation of Novus' operation. Ghormley offered this example of a win-win business opportunity. "We clear land for chemical companies so they can build new refinery units. At the same time, we can reuse all of the tree debris, and it doesn't end up in a landfill. Those are the types of opportunities we're always chasing."
In a highly competitive business environment in southeast Texas, Novus tries to separate itself from 20 competitors by "doing everything we say we will do and more for our customers."
Ghormley added, "Our promise is to complete a project without issues. It's about doing the best job we can. We are thankful for the business we get. We are not the lowest-priced company in our field, but we have experience and longevity and customers know they can count on us. We might get beat on the price but not on completing a project. Our performance has been consistent. We never have customer complaints."
Some of Novus' most notable project successes included removing debris in New Orleans after Hurricane George wreaked havoc in 1998 and clearing more than 1,100 acres of land for a Port of Houston Authority's expansion project in 2006. The company also removed thousands of broken tree limbs and branches on and around Entergy Corporation power lines after an ice storm hit southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana in 2007. After Hurricane Ike devastated Galveston in 2008, Novus collected 600,000 cubic yards of debris, and none of it ended up in a landfill. Most recently, Novus completed a 110-acre wood clearing job in Conroe for a construction company.
Despite the challenge each project brings, Novus' biggest obstacle has always been the unpredictable Texas weather. "It can be beautiful one day followed by 20 inches of rain the next day like we experienced in the Houston area this past spring," Ghormley said. "We have to be prepared for everything. During Hurricane Ike, we quickly mobilized our debris-clearing crews to support two FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) sites."
In terms of continued success, Ghormley also points to his company's ability to adapt to equipment upgrades such as changing from wheel to track units on grinders. "As equipment changes, we re-train our operators to ensure that they are the safest and most reliable group in the business. We continue to be proud of our safety record."
A Reliable Equipment Partnership
Through the years, Novus has learned that it's only as good as the equipment it uses and the companies providing that equipment. "We've been fortunate to buy and lease John Deere equipment through the same sales representative, Johnny Simpson, for many years. We have a great relationship with Doggett Heavy Machinery and Johnny."
Novus currently is leasing nine wheel loaders and four excavators from the equipment company. "Doggett is flexible and delivers the equipment we need to conduct our business," Ghormley added. "We receive good service and a fair price. We get a fixed number of hours to run our equipment for three years before we receive new equipment. It's an agreement that's worked really well."
Simpson, who also assisted Novus at two previous equipment companies, said Novus is professional, honest, reliable and committed to high standards. "I am fortunate they purchase John Deere equipment from us. Novus is the type of customer Doggett prefers doing business with."
Doggett also provides rollout buckets for loading over the tops of transfer trailers, clamp buckets that move brush and wood debris, and excavators with grapples. "John Deere has supported us a lot over the years and helped us with some job challenges," Ghormley said.
Novus also has done its share for the environment. In 2012, the company switched from burning diesel to natural gas in its trucks, which improves air quality and saves money. The company owns four compressed natural gas stations in the Houston area to fuel its vehicles and the public.
The Novus wood recycling story began in Houston in 1990 when Winters permitted the first material recovery facility for dry trash in the state of Texas. "Anything we could use we separated to recycle," recalled Winters, the company's President and CEO. "We noticed how much brush, pallet and wood debris was contained in trash. We made a mountain of recycled material."
That same year, Novus purchased a tub grinder to break down wood debris. "As far as we know, it was the first tub grinder in Texas to grind municipal wood waste," Ghormley added. "We also were the first Houston company to sell the grounded material - in this case, to a pulp and paper company, which burned it as biomass fuel."
In 1994, Novus sold its 35-truck hauling operation to USA Waste, which eventually became Waste Management - the leading provider of comprehensive waste management services in North America today. "USA bought our landfill and transfer assets but was not interested in purchasing our wood operation," Ghormley noted. "That ended up being a blessing in disguise."
Novus left the garbage business in 1998 and focused most of its efforts on wood recycling in the Houston-Galveston region. "We ran our wood operation on one of our tracts of land next to a landfill. Our forte was handling municipal brush and wood waste," Ghormley added.
Looking back - and ahead, Ghormley concluded, "It's been a great ride. We have learned a lot over the years and partnered with some exceptional customers and clients. Bill and I are eager to take the next business step forward."