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Harry Wayne Huizenga is arguably South Florida's best known and most successful entrepreneur. His key accomplishments include starting and growing many small businesses into multi-million dollar corporations, starting, owning, and funding several Major League sports teams, and donating vast sums of money to several South Florida schools and charities. To many, Huizenga represents the epitome of the "American Dream".

Huizenga was born to Chicago-Dutch parents in Evergreen Park, Illinois in 1937. He spent most of his school days in the Chicago area, until 1953 when his family moved to South Florida. He attended Pine Crest High School in Fort Lauderdale, and went on to attend Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

In 1968, Huizenga entered the pages of history. With a single garbage truck, Huizenga started the company Waste Management. His company rapidly expanded; within 25 years Waste Management was the largest garbage disposal company in the United States. Today, Waste Management operates and owns 413 waste collection operations, 370 transfer stations, 283 active landfill disposal sites, 17 waste-to-energy plants, 131 recycling plants, 95 beneficial-use landfill gas projects and 6 independent power production plants across the United States and Canada. Waste Management serves over 21 million people, and owns a fleet of over 22,000 garbage trucks; quite a step up from Huizenga's single garbage truck in 1968. Ironically, after selling Waste Management, Huizenga started another garbage disposal company named Republic Services, which grew to be the 3rd largest waste management company in the US, and was offered to merge with Huizenga's original brain child: Waste Management, Inc.

Huizenga's next great success story started in Dallas, Texas, where a man named David Cook had started a business by the name of Blockbuster Video. Through various business associates, Huizenga eventually bought Blockbuster Video sometime in 1987 and used the skills learned through his success with Waste Management to grow his new business even faster than his last. By 1994, a mere 7 years after his initial purchase, Huizenga sold Blockbuster Incorporated to Viacom for $8.4 billion dollars.

A few other of Huizenga's business ventures include the founding of the first nation-wide car dealership (AutoNation), and the creation of the hotel chain Extended Stay America, which he grew to be a powerful competitor in the hotel industry. Over the years, Huizenga has owned three Major League sports teams: the Miami Dolphins, the Florida Marlins, and the Florida Panthers. Today, Huizenga owns 5% of the Miami Dolphins, 50% of Dolphins Stadium in Miami Gardens, and the entirety of the Bank Atlantic Center in Sunrise, FL. Huizenga was actually the original founder of the Florida Marlins and the Florida Panthers, bringing hockey and baseball to South Florida.

A 1994 Miami newspaper article criticized Huizenga for his aggressive business strategies and accused him of monopolization, illegal election donations, domestic abuse, assault, disregard for environmental laws and even ties to organized crime. Several claims have since been refuted, while several others have been proven. Personally, I believe Huizenga is probably guilty of a lot more than even the Miami New Times could dig up. This being said, I don't necessarily blame Huizenga for his actions; most successful businessmen are usually guilty of more than a few crimes. At least Huizenga has given back to the community through scholarship programs and funding to various schools and charities. Though this does not completely absolve him, it does make a huge difference in how the local community views him.

All in all, Harry Wayne Huizenga's tactful entrepreneurship has led him to the pages of history. His aggressive cost cutting and deep insight into which industries to invest in have put him in the company of South Florida's richest and most well known people. His various business's have become the standards in their respective industries, and his mark on South Florida and the United States in general is guaranteed to last.

Wiki Page for Further Reading
About.com on Huizenga

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