The Natural Stone Council builds solid foundation for the future

March 14, 2007
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Without a doubt, we’ve come a long way in a year. Time flies - that will never change - but I’m always amazed by what we’re able to do in only 12 months.

The Natural Stone Council (NSC) is on an incredible journey - one that inspires and challenges me every day. Our recently adopted three-year strategic plan, the tenets of which I will discuss in a moment, is both exciting and motivating. On the other hand, venturing into uncharted territory requires taking risks and brings with it some uncertainty. That said, I am confident that our collective efforts will result in unprecedented success for our industry.

As we ready ourselves for StonExpo East in Atlanta and Coverings in Chicago, I want to share with you our vision and invite you to join us as we move forward. By working together, we can increase the understanding of, preference for, and consumption of natural stone.

Recently, the NSC conducted significant market research regarding impressions of stone among the trade and consumers. Our research told us that while people have a strong emotional attraction to natural stone, they have a good number of misconceptions about its durability, maintenance, hygiene and versatility, not to mention cost. The research also revealed that these misconceptions are getting worse.

To combat the negative perceptions and support our charter, the NSC Board of Directors drafted and approved a plan that will help us achieve our goal of promoting the value and unique benefits of stone in a multi-pronged approach.

The “trinity” of our plan includes a branding initiative, a green/sustainability program and a check-off program.

Branding

The NSC plans to invest over $1 million dollars over the next three years to support a national branding effort. This comprehensive multimedia campaign will position “Genuine Stone” as a truly one-of-a-kind material that brings unique enhancements to any building or landscaping project.

Along with a medallion logo, our branding partner, McKee Wallwork Cleveland, has developed a branding statement:

“Genuine Stone™ is more than rock people build with. It is naturally elegant, pure and a solid indication of your personality. Whether you intend to beautify your home, or to frame your vision, make sure your creation is as genuine as you.”

Genuine Stone will be promoted by a continuing presence at trade shows, such as the two mentioned above, and through a comprehensive industry Web site - GenuineStone.org. - which will launch in a few months. Prospective stone consumers will be driven to the Web site through a national public relations program and through ads in trade magazines targeted at all sectors of the stone industry. You will also notice a newly designed NSC booth making its debut at StonExpo East, which will be chock full of new brochures on the NSC, fundraising efforts and the green movement.

Green Movement

Green building is an exciting and significant development in the construction industry in recent years. Being at the forefront of this movement is one of the most critical issues we can take on for the betterment of our industry.

Look no further than the ancient pyramids or the Parthenon to understand that natural stone is a durable, sustainable building material. However, standing the test of time is not enough. Natural stone’s impact on the environment and how it supports environmentally friendly building methods and principles are yet to be defined.

Currently, recommendations are being made about what materials, products and designs support green building initiatives without the necessary supporting data. Until now, the stone industry has not had a seat at the table in these discussions. We must strive to help define and implement green building practices. Sustainable building is not just about “staying power;” it is about our earth, air and environment.

The most widely used system for green building is Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design or LEED®. LEED was established by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) just 10 years ago. The system defines standards for environmentally responsible, healthier and more profitable structures based on a point system for new construction and major renovation. Today, only natural stone that is local to such a project can contribute to LEED points, which is why more needs to be done to promote natural stone as a sustainable building material.

The NSC, led by Cold Spring Granite Co.’s John Mattke, will be partnering with researchers and industry experts to test the environmental impacts and benefits of building with natural stone. Our goal is to further position stone as the preferred material in sustainable building. Natural stone offers many attractive, environmentally friendly benefits such as durability, ease of care and maintenance, recyclability and an enduring life cycle.

Check-Off Program

Milk, beef, eggs and raisins. No, it’s not a grocery list. These are just a few examples of industries that have joined together in a check-off program. In order to expand the stone industry’s position in the marketplace and generate reliable, long-term resources, the NSC is working with government agencies to implement an industry-wide check-off program. The sponsorship program - wherein a company’s contributions as an idea may be based on sales or some other measure - enables us to grow stronger. If we want to be a major player, we need to step up and work together.

This program is in its infancy; it will take us about three years to get it up and running. Until that time, all funding will come from investments by members of the stone industry.

As you might imagine, all of this progress has a financial price tag. We will be launching a fundraising campaign this month in the hopes of raising a minimum of $500,000 per year for the next three years.

We want to hear from you. Stop by the NSC booth at StonExpo East and Coverings. Reach out to one of the NSC Board members and let us know what you think. Our journey has only just begun, and our travels will be so much more rewarding with your input and support. There will, of course, be roadblocks, but as Scottish essayist and historian, Thomas Carlyle, once said, “The block of granite which was an obstacle in the pathway of the weak becomes a stepping stone in the pathway of the strong.”

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