Keeping the family name alive
According to Fred Becker, who has been the company's sole owner since 1985, his father purchased a small cut-stone company in the late 1940s. The shop included a ripsaw, gangsaw and planer, said Becker, adding that the business fabricated housing veneer, landscape and building stone, which they installed themselves.
In 1976, when Becker and his father started Becker & Becker Stone, they purchased another quarry south of Dubuque and built a cut-stone mill with several saws, planers and a polishing mill. "As the demand for cut-stone work grew, Becker & Becker Stone continued to grow and purchase more machinery," said Becker, adding that they purchased another quarry in 1994, and built a new mill at the Dubuque site. "Currently, Becker & Becker Stone's production facility has over 41,000 square feet and 4,000 square feet of office [space] at the Dubuque location." It now employs 13 workers, and its plant produces 50,000 cubic feet of cut-stone per year.
Since its beginning, Becker & Becker Stone has invested a great deal in technology. Among its equipment are nine diamond-blade saws from both Sawing Systems and Park Industries -- ranging from 18 to 90 inches in diameter; a Ty-Sa-Man diamond wire block saw; a Sawing Systems narrow belt block saw; a Park Industries 72-inch splitter; three Sawing Systems and Ty-sa-man 76-inch diamond gauger/finishing machines; five planers -- including a circular planer; a milling machine; a Sawing Systems vertical spindle router; a Pellegrini automatic bushhammer line and various polishing machines. In addition, the company also is equipped with five overhead cranes, and a number of fork trucks, rubber-tied end loaders and delivery trucks.
"Our most recent purchase is a Sawing Systems horizontal spindle contour grinder," said Becker. "This machine is capable of producing straight lines as well as geometric shapes. The shapes are read by high resolution photo eye, and are plotted into the computer memory. These shapes can be downloaded and stored on discs for future projects."
At the quarries, the company has a W.F. Meyers belt saw to cut the stone blocks, which typically measure from 5 1/2 feet x 13 feet x 3 to 5 feet high. Once cuts are made with the belt saw, air bags are placed in the cuts to push the stone blocks free, according to Becker. The blocks are then carried away with large rubber-tired end loaders that are equipped with fork attachments. These end loaders are Michigan 7 yard and 12 yard capacity machines. In total, Becker & Becker produces more than 250,000 cubic feet of limestone blocks from its quarries annually.
Marketing its productsThe company manufactures a complete line of housing products, including veneer, flagstone, pavers, polished stone and landscape products -- with retaining wall blocks ranging from 3 to 26 inches thick in any width and lengths up to 80 inches, according to Becker. "Becker & Becker Stone is capable of producing any size cut-stone project -- ranging from panel, sills and coping to turned tapered columns and radius," he said, adding that the company produces work in Indiana limestone. "We also quarry Dolomitic limestone from two separate locations in Iowa. This product supports our housing and landscape market, and is also used in cut-stone fabrication."
Primarily, the company's markets are the central and western U.S. "Approximately 75% of our sales are cut-stone products, with the balance of sales being housing and landscape materials," said Becker. Among some of the recent projects that Becker & Becker Stone has supplied material to are the Iowa State Old Historical Building in Des Moines, IA, and the Lincoln Benefit Life Building in Lincoln, NE.
When looking towards the future, the company intends to continue to increase its sales and production rate. "Becker & Becker sees technology and modern equipment as great tools for increasing production as well as keeping fabrication costs low," said Becker. "[Also], we intend to add to our loyal customer base. We are always striving to lower our production turn around time in order to better serve our customers."