Yesterday I had the pleasure of taking a site tour of the Lafarge Gypsum Plant in Buchanan along with Trustee Theresa Knickerbocker and Administrator Kevin Hay of Buchanan, Cortlandt Town Supervisor Linda Puglisi and Peekskill Mayor Mary Foster. Thank you to Plant Manager Criss Fraley, EHS Manager, Steven Steelsmith and Operations Manager Larry Connors for their hospitality and speed course on Gypsum manufacturing.
To me it’s always fascinating to learn about different industries. Did you know that Sheet Rock is actually the brand name of one of Lafarge’s competitors and has taken on a generic identity like Kleenex and Xerox. The official name of the product is Drywall. Drywall comes in different widths 5/8 for commercial buildings; ½ for residential homes and 3/8 for mobile homes and home remodeling. Gypsum is the only rock that can be utilized to produce drywall. Ingredients such as fiberglass will give the dry wall the 1 hour fire wall needed for building code. Other ingredients include a fungicide used to hamper mold which you will find in the drywall used in bathrooms.
The plant is also producing a new product which will be used to line elevator shafts. This plant uses synthetic gypsum. Synthetic gypsum is the byproduct of coal burning plants. The use of synthetic gypsum has reduced mining therefore protecting our natural environment and also recycles a product which would otherwise be dumped in landfills. The Lafarge plant receives its raw material approximately every eight days from a plant in Maryland from Atlantic barges who travel up the Hudson to the Buchanan Plant.
The Lafarge Plant sits on 56 acres and produces between 1.9 and 2 million square feet of Drywall every day! And that is not even the full capacity of plant output. The plant is presently operating three shifts five days a week, however, full capacity would be three shifts seven days a week. It currently supplies drywall to distributors in a 500 mile radius of the plant.
This plant is one of three LaFarge plants in the US. Lafarge is a worldwide company with over 75,000 employees. The company is one of the largest manufacturers of cement in the world. Gypsum is a secondary product line. The Buchanan plant employs 105 skilled and unskilled workers. Over the last few years, Lafarge has invested over $100 million in plant upgrades and improvements.
I must admit that watching the “line” produce the drywall was intimidating. We so often take for granted less glamorous industries like drywall manufacturing yet no building is constructed without it! Thank you to the men and women who work the line to produce the material our country is literally built on. Thank you to Lafarge and its Buchanan management team for running a safe, clean plant and employing our local residents. Just think, Lafarge products have helped build cities and towns around the world yet they call Buchanan home.