Fort Payne Quarry, the Good Neighbor
At a time when many cities fight to keep quarries out of their communities, the city of Fort Payne awarded Vulcan’s Fort Payne Quarry with a Manufacturer of the Year award.
by Kerry Clines, Senior Editor
A recent executive brief released by the The Saint Index listed aggregates quarries as the third least popular business among not-in-my-back-yard (NIMBY) activists. Only landfills and casinos enjoy a higher level of opposition. However, that is not the way the city of Fort Payne feels about its local quarry . . . at least not now.
Fort Payne Quarry has been in operation for almost 20 years just across the tracks from the city of Fort Payne, Ala. As time passed, the quarry received less attention and investment from its out-of-state owner and fell into a state of disrepair.
The plant’s employees were really downhearted. The lack of involvement from the owner showed not only in the condition of the plant, but also in the attitudes of the employees. “What was there to be proud of at a rundown plant? Why should the employees care?” says George Grguric, Fort Payne Quarry plant manager.
In May 2007, Birmingham, Ala.-based Vulcan Materials Co. entered the picture. The company bought the struggling quarry operation and immediately set out to revitalize the quarry and change the community’s mindset.
Vulcan’s reputation for being a community-minded, environmentally concerned company preceded it, so the community welcomed the new owners. “We knew that Vulcan was coming in to improve the situation,” says Carol Beddingfield, executive director, Fort Payne Chamber of Commerce, “not just to drain the land of material, but to be a community-involved company as well.”
Since Vulcan came onboard, the plant employees’ attitudes have changed. They take pride in their plant and their work, and it shows. “Now, they want to do it right,” Grguric says. “We continue to improve in production, and they’re proud of that. They’re proud of the city. The people in the city wave, they’re happy to see us. We don’t shake the city anymore when we put shots off. You used to be able to find the quarry just by following the dust, now you can’t. My guys are proud of that.”
Fort Payne Quarry quickly became a leading corporate citizen in the area. It also became the kind of neighbor everyone would like to have by always trying to keep community concerns in mind.
In one case, the quarry worked with the city to develop a land-use plan involving set backs and vegetated, sloped embankments that bordered an old historic town cemetery. When stripping began near the area, the quarry employees made sure to leave plenty of space so the activity could not be seen from the cemetery. Little things like that make a huge difference to the community.
“That’s just an example of their community involvement,” Beddingfield says. “They have also supported downtown revitalization in Fort Payne. Usually, a quarry company wouldn’t even consider a thing like that — pleasing the citizens.”
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