Nearly 120 years of stoneworking

May 1, 2002
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The Georgia Marble Co. processes blocks of its crystalline white marble at its facilities in northern Georgia.

Two robot diamond wire saws from Pellegrini are used to make detailed cuts in the stone blocks.
In 1835, the world's richest deposit of white crystalline marble was discovered in the "Long Swamp Valley" of North Georgia. Henry T. Fitzsimmons, an itinerant Irish stonecutter, had come across the material while walking through the area's wooded terrain, and the pure white brilliance of the stone prompted him to begin quarrying and stonecutting operations in 1838.

The stone encouraged ambitious early Americans such as Frank Sidall and H.C. Clement to seek out Georgia's "amazing" stone. In May of 1884, Sidall and Clement built The Georgia Marble Co. on 7,000 acres in Georgia's north country. In relatively little time, railroad transportation was helpful in making it possible to open up broad new markets for Georgia Marble's stone to be used in buildings and private memorials nationwide.

Georgia Marble?s value was due to its composition, which is almost entirely calcium carbonate. The stone's structure is crystalline, with no stratification and basically free of discoloring agents that cause staining from the marble's interior. Myriad crystals in the stone create a sparkling appearance and form a barrier against moisture, dirt and discoloration. Because these crystals are interlocking, they give Georgia Marble a very low moisture absorption rate and high degree of strength, making it possible for one cubic foot of Georgia Marble to support a weight of nearly 1,000 tons.

Only 30 years after The Georgia Marble Co. was launched, a period of company expansion began and lasted for 45 years. By the 1960s, the company had become a leader in the industry worldwide. Four decades later, Georgia Marble was acquired by the French conglomerate, Imerys, the world's largest supplier of mineral products, and it became one of that company's 250 manufacturing and sales sites in 32 countries.

Today, The Georgia Marble Co. reports that it is still the world's largest overall producer of marble products, working from marble deposits that are predicted to last for another 3,000 years. The company has been in continuous operation since 1884, and stone is still being quarried from the original location. Quarrying equipment includes six belt saws from W.F. Meyers, which can cut 2 inches per minute; two Marini diamond wire saws, which can cut 4 to 5 inches per minute; and assorted quarry bars and related tools. Heavy equipment for maneuvering blocks and machinery includes a Volvo L-330 for pulling and hauling blocks; a Volvo L-70 for moving saws; two Caterpillar 988B wheel loaders; a Caterpillar 977 track loader; and two International loaders.

Overall, quarrying production at Georgia Marble totals 120,000 cubic feet per month.

The company's Dimension Stone Group consists of two divisions, Structural and Memorial. The Memorial Division quarries and produces dimensional marble for custom monuments, memorials and mausoleums, while the structural division quarries and fabricates the stone for architectural exterior and interior building construction. The plant equipment includes two thin belt saws from W.F. Meyers and Sawing Systems; 13 gangsaws; two Pellegrini robot diamond wire saws; an Omag stoneworking machine; a Brembana CNC Router; a profiling saw from Sasso; a Breton slab polisher; two hydraulic splitters; six diamond facers; and 16 various diamond saws. The staff at the factory includes a total of 35 salaried employees and 103 hourly employees.

Memorials displaying the work of The Georgia Marble Co. include The Arlington Memorial Park, Pinelawn Memorial Park, The Harding Memorial, The Douglas Fairbanks and Tyrone Power Memorials, the East Front on The National Capitol in Washington, DC, and perhaps the most well known Georgia Marble memorial, The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, where the company's stone was used for the massive sculpture of Abraham Lincoln.

Impressive structural Georgia Marble achievements include the New York Stock Exchange in New York, NY; the AT&T Capital Center in Columbia, SC; The Buckingham Fountain and St. Peter?s Church in Chicago, IL; the Shelby County Courthouse in Columbiana, AL; and the McDonnell Douglas Plaza in Irvine, CA.

A broad range of bridge saws are in operation at the plant.

New management structure

Just last year, a new management team was instituted at the company. David King, involved in Georgia Marble dimensional stone sales for more than a decade, was promoted to Business Leader of the Structural Division and now oversees all sales functions relative to architectural and design, cut-to-size, tile and special promotions. Jay Kown, a Georgia Marble staff member since 1992, was promoted to Business Leader of the Memorial Division and is presently in charge of memorial and monumental sales. In the past, Kown had worked at a number of company positions, most recently as West Coast Operations Manager.

King and Kown, under the direction of National Sales and Marketing Director Patrick Perus, who oversees all aspects of the company's sales and marketing efforts, will be focusing on the renovation/remodeling marketplace and a number of new initiatives as well. "We are making an even more concentrated effort to get closer to our customers," said Perus.

Recently, Stonequest was launched, an Internet-based platform to reward customers for their loyalty to the company. It works on a "points-per-dollar" system, allowing customers to earn points for every dollar spent with the company and subsequently redeems them for various prizes depending on the point accumulation. "It allows us to communicate with our customers on a monthly basis," said Kown. "So far everything has gone smoothly, and customers are very happy with the program."

In addition to the new management and customer promotions, the company has developed a kitchen countertop line in Georgia marble, and it also developed a new literature package. "We like to tell customers that they are being introduced to a new company that is 117 years old," concluded King.

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