December 1, 2013
Rod Martin shows that family business leaders can have a big impact on state and national issues.
By Therese Dunphy, Editor-in-Chief
As a third generation leader of Bechtelsville, Pa.-based Martin Stone Quarries, Inc., Rod Martin grew up in the industry. He worked for the company part-time during high school and college, and joined the business full time after graduating from Eastern Mennonite College in 1995. Like many members of family-owned companies, he learned the business by working in many different roles and at many different levels.
Today, he continues to work on many levels, including as a vice president of the family business, as chairman of the board for the Tri-County Area Chamber of Commerce, as an executive board member of the Pennsylvania Aggregates and Concrete Association (PACA), and as vice chairman of the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association’s (NSSGA) Government Affairs Committee.
“Rod has always focused on his family, the family business, and the industry,” says Dennis Coker, vice president, aggregates, of Natural Resource Partners, L.P. “He’s always been someone who leads by example and has helped influence a number of former and current members of the NSSGA’s Young Leaders Council to get more involved in the association and to look for ways to positively impact the aggregates industry. If I hadn’t gotten to know Rod over the years, I don’t know if I would have been as active in the association as I have been.” (Editor’s note: Coker serves as NSSGA’s treasurer.)
Martin’s grandparents, Henry and Dorothy, took over an active quarry in 1953 and started Martin Stone Quarries. His father, Glenn, and uncle, Tom, later assumed management of the company. Today, they are semi-retired, but serve as advisors to Rod and cousins Travis and Trevor, who now lead the family business. “We all followed in our fathers’ footsteps,” Martin says. He handles sales and public relations, Travis heads up operations, and Trevor leads IT and finance. The three cousins have seven children who may one day comprise a fourth generation of Martins at the helm, and they will have big steel-toed boots to fill.
“Rod has been a business colleague and friend for over 20 years,” says Rich Blake, president, Mellott Co. “It is wonderful to experience a close friend develop into an exceptionally good husband, parent, and industry leader. His values and ability to lead are the foundation of his character and success.”
One of the values shared throughout the generations is the importance of listening to customers. “We live and die by our customers,” Martin says. “We’re a two-quarry operation. We don’t have a construction division, so we have to stay attuned to what our customers need. Give them what they need, at a fair price, and everyone wins.”
Good communication skills are not only important when dealing with customers, but also with members of the community. “I think we have all seen and benefitted from improving our community relations,” he says. Because family members live in the community in which the quarry operates, it has always enjoyed a positive relationship, but Martin Stone Quarries now actively seeks engagement with the community.
“The biggest thing we do is to get more and more tours through the quarry,” Martin explains. The company works with the local school district as part of this mission. Until budget cutbacks two years ago, fourth graders studying geology and wetlands as part of their curriculum visited the site annually. “We’d bring them through the quarry and start them at the very top to see what it looks like before mining; then we’d take them through the whole mining process,” he adds.
Since school funding cuts spelled an end to field trips for some schools, Martin and Eric Gehman, senior sales representative, created slideshow presentations and took the tour into classrooms. While Martin says the experience may not have the same impact on the kids as seeing life-sized equipment does, the program does offer greater reach than the tours. Over the last year, the duo visited four schools in the local school district and engaged approximately 400 students. In addition, they traveled to a more remote school and invited a classroom taught by a customer’s daughter-in-law to the site in order to educate future generations about mining.
“It’s good in that it brings the kids in and they see what we do, but it also brings the parents in,” Martin says of quarry tours. “They can see a quarry from the road, but they have no idea what we do. We can explain it to them and dispel some myths that they might have too.”
In addition to school field trips, Martin Stone Quarries hosts local Boy Scouts, Rotarians, Jaycees, and nearly any other group that wants to visit the operation. “The more groups that come in and see what we do, the fewer groups there are on the street whispering, ‘What do they do there?’” he adds. “It educates the community, and it educates parents, so it’s a win-win. It may be an hour or two out of our day, but it’s time well spent.”
During the holiday season, the company also works with the local police department as a sponsor of its Shop With A Cop program. Through the event, families who need assistance during the holidays are given gift cards and shop with a DARE officer at a local store. “We usually donate $2,000 to $4,000, and they split it up among the kids,” says Martin, adding that he and his family usually join the shopping expedition. “It’s really fun.”
While Martin clearly enjoys working with the younger residents of the surrounding community, the good will seems to have been reciprocated. In 2006, the company was able to nearly double the size of its quarry through a permit expansion. The process took about a year and a half and only four hearings. In comparison, a prior 60-acre expansion in the 1980s took more than seven years and over 20 hearings.
“My dad and uncle said before getting into it, ‘be sure everyone knows what you’re doing,’” Martin recalls. “So Trevor and I went out and met with each individual neighbor and told them what we were doing, why we were doing it, and what it was going to look like when we were done. We also went one-on-one with supervisors and brought them out. When we got to the hearing, nobody was surprised.”
State and national leadership
While Martin has plenty on his plate just dealing with sales and public relations roles within the family business, he has also followed in his father’s footsteps in civic and industry leadership. He currently serves as chairman of the board for the Tri County Area Chamber of Commerce, a role his father previously filled. And, if Peter Vlahos, PACA’s executive director, has any say, he’ll follow in his father’s footsteps at the state level as well.
“Rod…represents so much that is good about our industry in Pennsylvania — a family business with deep multigenerational roots in the aggregates industry. Rod has continued his family’s commitment and service to our industry by actively serving on our association’s board of directors and executive committee. The size of the company and its limited resources have not stopped Rod from leading our government affairs committee and PAC (political action committee),” Vlahos says. “He recognizes that we need to stand up and be counted as individuals and as an industry if we have the chance to affect change either in Harrisburg, Pa., or in Washington, D.C. I look forward to the day that Rod will lead our association much like his father, Glenn, did.”
While Martin became active in the state association early in his career, it was approximately five years later that a peer suggested he become involved with the NSSGA through its Young Leaders Council (YLC). He attended his first meeting in 1997 and only missed one subsequent meeting — when it conflicted with his son’s baptism.
From 2004 to 2005, he served as chairman of the YLC and became a strong advocate for it within the industry. “The thing that always impressed me about Rod is his involvement in NSSGA, and, in particular, his dedication to the Young Leaders group,” says Sean McLanahan, vice president and CFO, McLanahan Corp. “He is passionate about helping people learn about our industry and networking with peers and industry professionals to advance issues affecting our industry. Add in his commitment to RockPac (where Martin serves on the board of trustees) and his local community by providing tours to civic and school groups, and he is an obvious choice for this prestigious award. He does so much for the benefit of industry, far beyond what most people would realize or comprehend.”
In addition to YLC, Martin has been an active participant in the association’s grassroots efforts. In 2008, he was named the Aggregates in Action (A2) Activist of the Year, and he currently serves as vice chairman of its government affairs committee. “Our business is so heavily focused on the highway industry,” he says, noting that both state and federal governments may suffer from funding challenges. “We have a major funding crisis in Pennsylvania,” Martin adds. In fact, the legislature’s failure to respond to requests from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for adequate funds have recently resulted in reduced transportation access. “We’ve had two bridges that were weight restricted,” he says. The company had to pay a waiver to use one bridge and takes longer, more expensive delivery routes to avoid the other.
And federal funding poses similar challenges, particularly in a very partisan political environment. “The country seems so divided right now,” he says. “Everybody seems to be in the mindset that they don’t want to give anyone a win, whether it’s good for the country or not.” Regardless, Martin continues to work with elected officials and industry toward long-term solutions.
“Rod Martin has been an active and committed government affairs committee member for at least a decade,” says Pam Whitted, NSSGA’s senior vice president, legislative and regulatory affairs. “Prior to the passage of MAP-21, Rod testified on behalf of NSSGA before the House Small Committee on the importance of the surface transportation law to the aggregates industry and small businesses, specifically. He called for passage of a multi-year, robust reauthorization. Rod is not only a man of words, but of action. He has developed relationships with his members of Congress and maintains those relationships, essential to a successful advocacy program… Rod’s thoughtful advice and counsel have been invaluable.”
From the local chamber of commerce to the halls of Congress, Rod Martin has demonstrated leadership at every level. We are proud to recognize him as the 2013 AggMan of the Year.