In this issue of Stone World, we present our annual Report from Latin America. And while firms in stone-producing nations such as Brazil have been using Italian machinery for over a decade now, it is interesting to note that many companies are continually upgrading their equipment, bringing the level of automation and efficiency to a world class level.

In preparing this issue's Latin America Report, I traveled to the state of Espirito Santo, Brazil, to see the level of stoneworking technology first hand (page 48). Not only was I impressed with the level of technology present - including Breton slab polishers, Barsanti gangsaws and Comandulli edge polishers, among other equipment - but I was also intrigued by the investments these companies are making in their future. For example, Marbrasa (which was the first firm to import Italian machinery in the early 1990s) has recently undergone a $3.5 million investment program at its 45,000-square-meter fabrication plant in Cachoeiro. These investments, which include eight new Barsanti gangsaws, increases production capacity to 55,000 square meters per month. Moreover, the company invested $8 million to establish a tile production plant near its quarries, with a first-year production rate of 40,000 square meters per month.

And investments such as this are not at all limited to Espirito Santo. Michelangelo of Curitiba, Paran¿Brazil, has brought in a broad range of new machinery from Italy in recent times, including two tile lines and four block cutters, all from Pedrini of Italy (page 74). Most recently, the company also added two gangsaws from BM of Italy. With the new machinery investments, Michelangelo's production rate has increased from 25,000 square meters per month to 45,000 square meters per month.

Also, in Itabora¿Rio di Janeiro, Brazil, Thor Granitos e M¿res Ltda. established Thor Tiles, an operation dedicated to the production of calibrated tiles (page 78). Equipped with state-of-the-art machinery from Italy, this venture will produce 24,000 square meters of calibrated tiles per month.

Of course, the end result of these investments is their effect on business and stone use throughout the world. In this issue, we feature two examples of stone from Latin America in a high-profile setting. The first example is a prestigious office building in Auckland, New Zealand, which was refurbished with Verde Labrador granite from Emigran of Brazil (page 82). The level of stoneworking technology allowed for a broad range of cladding pieces that were delivered to the New Zealand site in a cut-to-size and ready-to-fit format.

The next example of Latin American stoneworking expertise can be found in our cover story, a new office building in an upscale area of San Diego, CA (page 92). In this project, Durango Rojo ImperialTM red Mexican travertine was used in 20- x 36-inch panels, which is the maximum size of adhered veneer in Southern California. The stone was quarried and fabricated in Mexico by World Wide Stone Corp., which has opened several quarrying sites and state-of-the-art factories over the past five years alone. The company's rapid development and subsequent success is a solid example of the worldwide advancement of the stone industry.