RAVENA– The Lafarge Ravena cement plant is marking its 60th anniversary this year.
The plant’s groundbreaking was in 1961 by the original company, Atlantic Cement Co., and the facility, now owned by Holcim, has become one of the area’s largest employers since that time, according to company officials.
At a May 19, 1961, ceremony attended by 1,000 dignitaries, elected officials and local residents, then-Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller broke ground on a $64 million facility.
“Now you’ll see a real boom in the area!” Rockefeller reportedly said at the time, according to the company.
According to a 1961 report in The Troy Record, Rockefeller “turned the first shovel-full of earth on a limestone-abundant site near the Hudson River and stated: ‘The enormous production capacity of this plant will undoubtedly draw many large and small companies to the environs, and as a result, employment will rise considerably.’”
The plant began operating in 1962. Sixty years later, the Ravena plant employs approximately 160 full-time workers.
It is the largest employer and largest property taxpayer in southern Albany County, according to the company.
“We have come a long way since that historic day when Gov. Rockefeller first broke ground in Ravena, and I am proud of the work we have done to fulfill his prediction of this facility’s significant economic impact,” said plant manager Dave MacLauchlin. “We have much more to do, and we look forward to playing a key role in building the state’s green energy and sustainable economies over the next 60 years.”
Heather Briccetti, president and CEO of The Business Council of New York State, said the company has made major contributions to the industry and to the local economy over the years.
“The Business Council applauds the leadership of the Ravena cement plant and their employees for the hard work that has brought them to this milestone moment and for their ongoing commitment to the local community,” Briccetti said. “We are proud to call them a member of The Business Council and proud of the innovations and technology they have brought to the plant over the past several years. We will continue our support for plant manager Dave MacLauchlin and his team as they strive to support the state’s sustainability goals.”
Since its opening in 1962, the Ravena plant has produced materials for numerous infrastructure projects and some of the most iconic landmarks across the Northeast, including the One World Trade Center Memorial; Giants Stadium in Rutherford, New Jersey; and the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.
“Lafarge has been an important economic driver in Albany County over the past 60 years,” said Capital Region Chamber President and CEO Mark Eagan. “The Lafarge plant supports scores of good-paying manufacturing jobs as it produces cement for key infrastructure projects statewide. Lafarge is a strong community partner; we look forward to witnessing the continued evolution and engagement of the company over the next 60 [years].”
In September 2017, the Ravena plant completed a three-year, multimillion-dollar modernization project aimed at improving efficiency. The project produced up to 800 construction jobs and generated $170 million to the local economy, according to the company.
The modernization project focused on a new kiln line that exceeds strict state and federal emissions limits.
“As a member of the Bethlehem Chamber for 14 years, Lafarge (Holcim) continues to be a strong factor not only for local development, but in North America and overseas,” said Ellen Nesbitt, interim president of the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce. “We applaud the company for the measures they are taking toward net zero carbon emissions; the investment in modernizing the Ravena plant; and the leadership and employees’ willingness to give back to their community.”
Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-102, said the company has contributed to the local economy and has driven growth and employment in the area.
“For the past 60 years, the Ravena cement plant has benefitted the lives of countless people who live in and travel through the state, playing an instrumental role in our state’s many infrastructural undertakings,” Tague said. “The facility provides over 100 good-paying, family-supporting jobs on-site, and its operations have spurred the creation of dozens of additional businesses. I congratulate Plant Manager Dave MacLauchlin and the Ravena team as they celebrate their 60-year milestone and look forward to their future contributions to our communities and company successes.”
Lafarge is a member of Holcim US, which offers a range of cement, aggregates, asphalt, concrete products and construction services that have been the foundation for infrastructure projects across the globe.
By Dick Brooks
For Capital Region Independent Media
I became an elementary school teacher back in the days when male teachers were handed their diploma and a paint brush in the same ceremony. Low pay and the need to eat regularly combined with a long summer vacation meant you automatically became a neighborhood handy man.
My best friend and fellow teacher partnered up. As a team we were still about three cards shy of a full deck so we became the Laurel and Hardy of home repair.
We wallpapered and painted interiors during the winter and painted exteriors and mowed lawns during the summer months. Our skill level wasn’t all that high but neither were our prices, so we were in demand.
My partner, we’ll call him “Norton” to disguise the fact that his real name was “Gary,” was a little on the impatient side. He didn’t like picky things like painting trim, but could paint like a house afire on the broad flat areas.
I’m the artistic type — patient, slow and not one who enjoys sweating.
We made the perfect team — Norton painted the house and I did the trim and we usually finished at the same time. We did a great job and didn’t even charge for the entertainment we provided for much of the neighborhood we were painting in.
On one job, our ladder didn’t reach high enough to paint the peak, so we invented a 10-foot paint brush by taping a paintbrush to the end of a pole. It worked great, even if it was a little clumsy, until the brush ran out of paint. How do you dip a 10-foot paint brush into the paint pail? We solved the problem with Norton on the top of the ladder with the brush and me with the paint pail on the ground. So much paint dripped on me in the process that I looked like I had spent the day under a seagull convention, but it worked.
We hired a helper one summer. An exceptionally bright young man who was planning on attending college in the fall and could use more money than he was scheduled to make working for the town in the summer park program became our third team member.
He was the perfect foil for all our foolishness. He was as serious as a funeral and extremely conscientious. We soon discovered he had a fear of heights and wouldn’t go more than two rungs up on the ladder before he froze. He spent the summer painting all the low parts.
One house we were working at had an ankle-nipping, yappy little dog that took a dislike to our helper and he’d sneak up behind him and bark, startling him into making some amazingly artistic stripes in unusual locations. It became such a ritual that to continue the fun (for us), we replaced his drinking cup at the water cooler with a little kid’s sippy cup in the shape of a puppy.
He was very happy when we finished and moved to our next job.
Norton waited until he was painting two rungs up and zoned in on the job at hand before sneaking up behind him and barking at him in a remarkably accurate imitation of his small canine nemesis. Norton and I both thought the half pail of white paint on the evergreen bushes added a much-needed bright spot that increased the sidewalk appeal of the house.
I am afraid we may have carried the teasing and fun with our helper too far. We both loved him like a son and we’re sorry for the psychological damage done to him during that summer.
He went to college, graduated and became a lawyer. We still blame ourselves.
Thought for the week — You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage him.
Until next week, may you and yours be happy and well.
Reach Dick Brooks at Whittle12124@yahoo.com.