History: The Growth of William Charles


In the early 1960s, Bill bought out his brothers-in-law and owned the company. Bill set its identity and personality for nearly 30 years, building the company’s foundation on integrity, hard work, honesty, quality work and community service.


In response to a City of Rockford problem with its landfill at capacity in the early 1970s, Rockford Blacktop designed a new landfill and obtained one of the first landfill permits issued under the new EPA regulations. In 1972, the company officially was in the landfill business. By the 1980s, Chuck Howard, Billʼs son, was running the company. This was a period in which we began offering environmental services, performing electrical contracting, proving site excavation and expanding into real estate development. Also in the early 1980s, Bill created the William Howard Charitable Trust to help handicapped youth and economically disadvantaged youth in Winnebago County. Bill Howard died in 1987 and in the late 1980s, Chuck decided to change the companyʼs name to William Charles, reflecting its growth and diversification.


The 1990s and early 2000s saw growth within the companyʼs waste services group, expanding the Winnebago Landfill and also acquiring hauling companies in several key northern Illinois markets. Today the fleet of over 200 trucks services 140,000 residential and over 20,000 commercial customers spanning a 17 county area. The real estate development division also grew in this time period, adding commercial and residential property development to its portfolio. Currently, this division manages over 400 apartment units in Rockford and Bloomington/Normal, Illinois. Its has developed over a dozen residential subdivisions ranging in size from 24 to 768 lots and owns undeveloped property ranging in size from 28 acres to 140 acres. Over 900,000 sq. ft of commercial/industrial space is under company management. In 2005, William Charles acquired Ragnar Benson of Park Ridge, Illinois. An interesting set of circumstances had come full circle. Ragnar Benson was a Swedish entrepreneur who came to America in 1911 and a little over a decade later, launched a construction company specializing in concrete and masonry construction in Chicago. In the sixties, one of Ragnar Bensonʼs big jobs was the construction of the Chrysler Assembly Plant in Belvidere. Rockford Blacktop did the site work for that project. About 40 years later, the two companies would meet again; this time, Rockford Blacktop did the site work for Ragnar Benson for the Union Pacific Intermodal rail facility in Rochelle, Illinois. And in 2005, the two joined forces. This combination was something Ragnar Benson and Bill Howard would have been proud to see – because both men were entrepreneurs with strong work ethics who respected and trusted the abilities of their employees.


Nate Howard, Chuckʼs son, took over leadership of the William Charles organization in 2002 as President and Chuck continued on as Chairman. Under Nateʼs leadership, the company continues to move into projects and markets that fit its businesses. One area of special interest is projects we call “sustainable energy”. We are committed to the environment and have been long before it was popular. We do so because we wish to preserve our community and our future. Today, William Charles is a fifth generation family-owned business where employees come first and emphasis is put on workforce safety, being good stewards of the environment, supporting the communities in which we live and really paying attention to the customer/client. William Charles is a family business with 1,500 families whose focus really hasnʼt changed from those early days of A.C. Johnston. In 1988, the employees of William Charles completed work on a memorial to Bill Howard who died in 1987. Off Route 70 in northern Illinois, Bill had created a 1,000 acre wildlife refuge. At the entrance to this private refuge, employees built an observatory so the public has an accessible location for viewing flocks of migrating geese, as well as ducks, deer, eagles and hawks. This is a fitting memorial to Bill and also a symbol of the familyʼs dedication to our customers, employees, environment and the future.

With over a century of quality work behind our name, William Charles is still guided by the pursuit of excellence and the “Do it right the first time” work ethic that has been at the cornerstone of our business philosophy since 1892. Our attention to the customer and to the highest safety standards are at the very heart of all we do.