The power of one: Growing an environmental business

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By Roger Snodgrass

North Wind, Inc. has grown from a single employee to a staff of 35 in Los Alamos since 2005.


The once solitary figure who was there at the beginning and who was recently named a senior vice president of the company is Pete Maggiore, former New Mexico environmental secretary under Gov. Gary Johnson.


“I worked out of the house,” he said of the company’s early days in Los Alamos. “We’ve grown steadily since then.”


North Wind is in the environmental and engineering business, with headquarters in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The local office is one of 21 around the country.


When the Los Alamos National Laboratory contract was put up for bid in 2005, North Wind was mentioned under the small business plan submitted by the winning partnership, Los Alamos National Security, LLC. North Wind’s owner, Sylvia Medina, also has a New Mexico connection, having graduated from New Mexico Tech. The company is classified as a woman-owned, disadvantaged small business.


Last May, North Wind entered into a mentor-protégé relationship with the laboratory under a Department of Energy program.


“We just completed a demolition and decontamination project at Technical Area 21 (the old plutonium facility at the end of DP Road),” Maggiore said in an interview Monday. “We removed an isotope separation system column contaminated with tritium. We put it in a container that will be going off to WIPP.” That’s the Waste Isolation Pilot Project in Carlsbad, N.M., where certain defense-related radioactive material is permanently disposed.


The company has also contributed various kinds of regulatory support, including historical investigation reports and work plans.


“We designed and did the cap work at the airport landfill,” Maggiore said. “And because of our success on that project, we’ve been hired by the county to help close their landfill.”


That’s significant because it means the work opportunities have expanded beyond the laboratory. One of the goals of the mentor-protégé program is capacity building.


“We’re not just continuing to work with our mentor, but starting to diversify our portfolio,” Maggiore said.


In September, North Wind announced the acquisition of Apogen Technologies’ Los Alamos Office.


Maggiore has been associated with New Mexico for most of his 25-year career, after graduating from the University of New Mexico with a master’s degree in geology.


His term as secretary of the New Mexico Environmental Department from 1998-2002 was notable for a number of milestones, including the development of first draft of the Consent Order that has come to govern the comprehensive environmental cleanup program at Los Alamos National Laboratory.


In November this year, Maggiore was honored with the Dixy Lee Ray Award by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Ray chaired the Atomic Energy Commission beginning in 1973 and was elected governor of Washington in 1976. The award, established in 1998, honors significant achievements and contributions in the field of environmental protection.


Maggiore was recognized for “contributions to environmental remediation by combining legal requirements with sound scientific and engineering, as demonstrated by his participation in independent peer reviews and independent technical assessments.


“Sometimes you wonder if you’re making a difference and if you’re having an impact,” he said. “To be honored for actually doing that was really neat.”


Outside of work, Maggiore said he is focused on his 10-year-old twin boys and 12-year old daughter and their activities. He coaches the boys in a youth basketball program at the YMCA. He also serves on the board of directors of Horizon’s Day Care at the White Rock Methodist Church, “because I remember how hard it was to get day care when my three kids were young.”


“North Wind and myself hope to be here in Los Alamos for a long time,” he said.