Opening Its Doors
“We took it as a great opportunity to get to know the community and let the community know us,” Patankar says. “The focus is on the boys, who are 8 to 12 years old, but they are always accompanied by parents, who we certainly want to reach.”
During one- to two-hour tours, the quarry manager, the mining director, and Patankar meet the scouts at the scale house parking lot and arrange tours for them and their parents via a series of SUVs. Some basic safety training is provided before the troop tours the quarry, processing area, and stockpiles.
“We let them take samples of the rock and ask questions. They are very inquisitive about how the rock is mined. They always use the word ‘dynamite,’ and we have to tell them, ‘no, we don’t use dynamite,’” he says. “It’s good for us and the community. In the last three years, we’ve hosted 60 to 75 scouts and twice that number of parents.”
In another outreach effort, company representatives — including Patankar — joined the Rotary Club of Montgomery and began to attend meetings there. The bulk of the organization’s funding for community assistance activities is generated through an annual event called Run with the Rotary. The company has grown its support of that event over the last three years. Initially, it was a financial supporter, but as rotary involvement grew, so did participation in the event. In addition to financial support, several members of the operation’s team now participate in the 5K event, and the site is helping out in an unusual way: bottled water is being served from the ice-filled bucket of a brand new wheel loader. Placed along the runners’ path, they can simply grab a bottle and go on with their race.
“Our local Caterpillar dealer was delighted to supply us with a brand new demo loader, so it was spotlessly clean,” Patankar says. The operation added a magnetic version of its logo to the side of the wheel loader, and it was a hit. “They want it back every year,” he laughs.
Memorable ideas such as this are key to an effort’s success, he says: “We try to do something innovative with every event we participate in. When you put your mind to it, your participation is well received.”
Inviting the public in
As Silvi grew the outreach efforts around its Gibraltar Rock operations, it also focused on upgrading the plant, with a number of the improvements designed not only to improve production, but also community relations. Noise, dust, storm water, and process water runoff were all taken into consideration as the plant was modernized.
“At all of our facilities, we try to integrate environmental and community concerns as part of our decision-making,” Patankar says. In fact, as soon as Silvi acquired the operation, it set aside approximately 720 of the 1,440 acres for future protection. “From the get-go, we wanted to show the community that even though we are a quarry, and therefore an extractive operation, we’re also very concerned about keeping land that is pristine — untouched by development.” To achieve that goal, it sold the property to the Somerset County park system which, under the New Jersey Green Acres program, protects it from development in perpetuity.
“We felt very good about doing that,” Patankar says. “I think that helped us establish, to some extent, that we are what we say we are.”
Once the plant was upgraded, Silvi opened its doors to the public via an open house at its Belle Mead Quarry. Approximately 90 neighbors and public officials attended. The company set up a 7,000-square-foot temporary building where it served food and beverages. Staff members answered questions about the site as well as the mining process. Two vendors, Vibratech Inc. and KDC Solar, were invited to answer questions about blasting and a proposed solar project for the site. Attendees then boarded luxury shuttle buses to tour the site.
“The open house is an opportunity to bring all of the people in the community that we are involved with and give them a behind-the-scenes view of what goes on at the quarry,” says John Silvi. In fact, he takes the role so seriously that he and Larry acted as tour guides, describing the operation and its processes to visitors and fielding questions.
“The tour of the facility was absolutely fascinating,” says Hugh Dyer, a neighbor and chairman of the Montgomery Veterans Memorial. Dyer, whose memorial project received donated materials from the company, has firsthand experience with the mine’s positive impact on its neighbors. “Gibraltar’s contributions make a big difference to everyone in the community,” he says.
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