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Martin Marietta Materials brings quarry to Butts; Anticipated startup in one to five years

By Diane Glidewell

dglidewell@jackson-progress-argus.com

On Friday, April 9 three representatives of Martin Marietta Materials met with members of the Butts County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors to discuss the impending presence of the company in Butts County. The Martin Marietta representatives included Paul Thomas, Sales Manager, David Brisley, Director of Operation Services, and James Tuten, Senior Sales Representative. They are assigned to the South Central Division, which is headquartered in Duluth.

Construction of the road to the future quarry began in July 2009 and is nearing completion. The road begins off of Highway 36 West, about a half mile outside the Jackson City Limits, and continues almost two miles before it ends just before Big Sandy Creek. Later a bridge will be built and the plant site will be located on the other side of the Big Sandy. Martin Marietta Materials has invested $2 million in the road.

It is projected two asphalt plants and two redimix concrete plants will also be located at the site. The asphalt plants and redimix plants will be independently owned rather than operated by Martin Marietta itself. Having these plants onsite eliminates a great deal of truck traffic on local roads which would ensue if the aggregate rock products had to be carried to offsite plants.

Charlie Harper asked when the road would be finished. Representatives said it depended on the weather. In response to queries about a start-up date for the plant, Mr. Thomas replied, "You will know almost as soon as we will; when construction in this area begins to pick up, we will be opening the plant."

Depending on the economy, the startup is anticipated between one and five years away. The startup will employ about 20 people at the plant itself. Martin Marietta quarries use highly technical production equipment which minimize the number of employees.

"It makes sense for us to develop the Butts County site right now," said Mr. Thomas. "Data from McGraw Hill, which provides demographics for the construction industry, projects growth from 2010-2020 just north of Butts County and aggregates are needed where the population is growing."

Aggregates are crushed stone and sand; aggregates are used to pave roads, build railroad bed, maintain shorelines, and build foundations for houses and other buildings. Ground limestone is used in fertilizers and animal feed and used to made cement. Rocks and minerals are also essential in making many everyday items such as cars, glass, computers, pencils and pens.

Martin Marietta Materials operates 285 quarries and distribution facilities in 28 states, Nova Scotia, and the Bahamas. It is the second largest producer of construction aggregates in the United States and has $18 billion in annual sales. Its South Central Division oversees sites in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky, including six quarries and one transfer station in the North Georgia area. The Butts County site, known as Greenfield, is part of this group.

Most quarries are running at 30-40 percent of capacity since the downturn in the economy, but an average quarry produces one billion tons of aggregate per year. The Butts County site is projected to produce a half million ton of aggregates during the first two years.

The distribution area for a quarry's aggregates is usually within about 20 miles of the plant. Vulcan, one of Martin Marietta's competitors did the site investigation on the rock at the Butts County site but subsequently sold the land to Martin Marietta Materials after it purchased Florida Rock, which included other quarry sites too close to the Butts County one.

The rock will be removed by strip mining. The top layer of soil is removed, a blasting technique breaks the rock away from the earth, pit trucks haul the rock to the plant to be crushed, and conveyors move the product to other crusher to reduce it to desired sizes. The pit trucks, which cost about $600,000 a piece, will be assembled on site; mining equipment will also be built on site.

In response to a question from Bruce Bartholomew about the estimated sales from the Butts County plant, a projection of $15-20 million was given with another $3-5 million for the asphalt plants and $1-3 million for the concrete plants.

The Martin Marietta Materials representatives talked of the company's emphasis on safety, ethics and core values, and good community relationships. They talked of developing a beneficial relationship with neighbors in Butts County and asked anyone with questions to call. Tours to other Martin Marietta quarries can be arranged.

Visits to the website at www.martinmarietta.com are encouraged.