With more than 50 quarries, 18 manufacturing plants and approximately 1,200 employees, Polycor is one of the largest natural stone quarriers in the world. Stone World (SW) recently talked to Polycor’s President Patrick Perus (PP) to get his take on the natural stone industry, the environment and Polycor’s expansions.
SW: While most people know about Polycor, talk a bit about your history and what you have been doing recently?
PP: Polycor wanted to become the largest player in North America, if not in the world. Why do we want to do this? Not so much that we have a big ego, but stone is a great product. We believe it could own the future of the construction industry, but it is currently very fragmented. It doesn’t have the clout, the financial power or the marketing presence to count really as an industry with the architectural community. The wood, concrete and glass industries are very active. We believe by consolidating the industry, we could become a real voice -- along with the other guys.
The construction industry is responsible for 40 percent of the emission of greenhouse gas. The solution is to build sustainable buildings. What is a sustainable building? One that you don’t require carbon to be produced. The building doesn’t require a lot of heat or to be cooled too much and that the building will last. That product exists; it has always existed. It’s called a stone building. In North America and Europe, you see buildings that are 300 years old and they are still very functional. Stone by nature does not require energy to be produced. It’s a gift of God that we take out of the Earth. We have a real story to say and we want to say it together.
SW: What in your opinion is the future of natural stone?
PP: We have a great story to tell because we are beautiful, durable, and we are sustainable. We read a lot that the concrete guys pretend to be green. The glass guys are green. The difference between them and us is that in our case, it’s true. What is very disheartening is people don’t know our story. We have a great story, but we haven’t been able to tell it in a compelling manner to the world. We believe that if as an industry we can say that, then we will own the future of construction. Seriously.
Why can’t we tell our story? We are too small and lack the financial resources to do it. Because it is very fragmented, no one really has the power to become the voice of that industry. The Natural Stone Institute is doing a good job, but they have limited financial resources. The best bet is to support them. They are as strong as the support we give them. Second, to tell a story we have to be virtuous. When I say virtuous, I believe we have to be as green as what we say we are. So we make sure we have a safe environment, manage our quarries and properties correctly, and that we have good practices. Because this is what the future is. It’s for companies to act responsibly, whether it’s environmentally or socially. Unfortunately, we still don’t do that. We buy a lot of stuff from countries that use child labor and slave labor. They don’t care about safety. They don’t care about the environment. So unfortunately, a lot of the stone we are marketing in the U.S. and Canada is a product that encompasses a lot of human misery in it. So if we want to promote stone as the product of the future, we have to be more virtuous and put the resources together to promote our product. Stone is the real deal. We are the real green product.
SW: Do you believe all companies should support the Natural Stone Institute, or should they do their own marketing to spread the message of natural stone, or is it a mixture?
PP: [The Natural Stone Institute] is a great organization. They have made a very strong effort. They are the most serious among all of us. The initiative they have taken is trying to get the check off program in place because it provides serious marketing money to get our message out. As a member of the industry, we have to support the Natural Stone Institute in their initiative — both financially and providing the support they need because this is a legislative process, they go through congress.
I believe that every quarrier should get the message out about the durability of natural stone. We cannot just rely on the Natural Stone Institute to do our job. We have to do our own. I believe that by consolidating, by being a bigger group, we have the ability to do that. We are trying to do our share. I think Coldspring is doing a great job, as well. They were probably a pioneer in that effort.
SW: Talking about consolidation, Polycor in recent years has purchased several companies. How did that come about?
PP: The stone industry is small enough so we know exactly what we want to do. Typically, it is people approaching us or us approaching them. We provide a nice exit strategy for family owned businesses, for when people want to come and cash in on their assets and investments, Polycor is a great solution for that. We are always open to opportunity. Our ability to grow is our ability to attract capital so we are very careful with the target we have. The companies are well managed. They have reserved a history of profitability. They do things properly. This is how we have evolved. We want to have the most iconic stone in our portfolio.