Titan America is a premier supplier of a range of cement and related building materials products – aggregates, cement, block, fly ash and ready-mix – through various business brands based primarily along the Atlantic coast regions. David Soyka takes a concrete look at how these various brands cement a growing business model that is both sturdy and sustainable.
It’s a basic building block for our factories, roadways, bridges and houses: cement and cementious materials such as concrete. Titan America LLC is one of the leading producers of these building blocks that are essential to almost any construction enterprise. As its name implies, the company has a gigantic reach, with various business units that make and distribute cement products all along the East Coast, from Florida on up to Canada, as well as in New Orleans and locations nearby to the Mississippi River. Customers are primarily contractors in the construction industry, although there is a relatively small percentage of retail distribution.
The company is itself a part of the global Titan Group, the parent company of which is Titan Cement Company S.A., headquartered in Athens, Greece. Originally founded in 1902 and listed on the Athens Stock Exchange since 1912, Titan first expanded to the United States with the acquisition of a controlling stake in the Roanoke Cement Company of Roanoke, Va., in 1992. Subsequent acquisitions led to the establishment of Titan America as the vertically integrated holding company for all U.S. subsidiary operations. Headquartered in Norfolk, Va., Titan America employs about 2,000 people and continues to grow in maintaining a range of cement, ready-mix concrete and concrete plants, as well as quarries, cement terminals and fly ash production facilities that market their products as individual brands through separate business identities.
“It sometimes gets a little complicated,” says Kate McClain, corporate communications. “For example, we are one of the top producers of ready-mix concrete in the United States, with 97 ready-mixed plants up and down the East Coast, which together produce more than four million cubic yards of concrete a year. If you’re in Virginia, you’re buying from Titan Virginia Ready-Mix, but, if you’re in Florida, you’re buying from Tarmac America. That’s because when we acquire a business, we maintain the local brand identity. And in the ready-mix market, where it’s all about being close to your customers, there isn’t an overlap between the two brands. Customers in Florida don’t care that there’s another ready mix company with a different name in Virginia that’s owned by Titan, because they aren’t going to order ready-mix product from out-of-state.”
Tarmac also has its own unique identity separate from ready-mix concrete – it also offers a wide range of golf course materials – bunker sand, choker sand, rootzone sand, top dressing sand and drainage gravel. While sand is sold under the Tarmac brand, Titan America produces and sells aggregates from two locations in Florida – Titan’s Pennsuco Quarry, which produces more than 7.5 million tons of limestone products annually, and Tarmac’s Center Sand Mine, which produces one million tons of sand annually. Aggregates are shipped by the Titan-owned Silver Sand Transportation Company for use in roadways, landscaping, pathways and building construction.
One of the newest additions to the Titan family of brands is Cumberland Resources, which operates an aggregate quarry located on the Cumberland River Salem, Ken. With more than one billion tons of aggregate reserves, mined aggregate is currently barged to New Orleans and various neighboring locations on the Mississippi River.
Titan also operates nine gray block plants throughout Florida, sold under the Tarmac brand. With the capacity to produce more than 75 million, eight-inch equivalent blocks a year – and with the ability to make a range of sizes from four-inch to 12-inch, as well as round, trailer pad and 16-inch column blocks, Tarmac is one of the nation’s largest concrete block producers.
Moving northward from the sunshine state all the way up to New Brunswick, Canada, Titan operates Separation Technologies, a pioneer in the proprietary electrostatic separation (ESS) processing of fly ash into a consistent low-carbon product for the concrete industry. The company produces more tons annually and at more power plants than any competing process. Separation Technologies markets the ash under the ProAsh® brand.
Cement, however, is Titan’s core product. It is produced as bulk and packaged by Roanoke Cement Company in Virginia and by Titan Florida Cement at its Pennsuco plant in Medley, Fla., which is just north of Miami. Bulk and bagged products are manufactured in Portland and masonry varieties.
Roanoke Cement is the only active cement plant in Virginia, located 15 miles north of Roanoke. The Roanoke plant has undergone six major modernizations since it began production in 1951. The most recent not only increased production to over 1.3 million tons annually, but also transformed the Roanoke facility into one of the most energy-efficient and environmentally friendly plants in the world. Bulk products are distributed through a series of strategically located distribution terminals in Virginia and North Carolina; the packaged products are available through a network of distributors. Sales extend outside of Virginia to include North Carolina, West Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina and the District of Columbia.
The Pennsuco modernization was completed in June 2004, increasing its production from one million to 1.8 million tons annually. It is now the largest cement facility in Florida and is recognized as one of the most environmentally friendly and efficient plants in the United States. It is also the fifth largest quarry in the U.S., producing more than 7.5 million tons of limestone products annually. Product is distributed in Florida through a network of storage terminals, rail and road transport.
Essex Cement serves metropolitan New Jersey and New York, where it has imported more than six million tons of cement to the area since 1985. It is the only source of cement in New Jersey, where it operates the largest cement distribution terminals in the region at Port Newark, with a storage capacity of 62,000 tons.
McClain notes that cement is no longer just a mere “gray area,” but comes in a range of value added options. “We have a chrome line that comes with premixed colors that are idea for designer uses, such as an outdoor patio. We also offer lines that have faster set up times for applications that need to be completed quickly. We’ve also just introduced a product with the slogan, “when it rains, it drains.’ Typically rain water sits on the cement surface; we’ve developed a formulation where the rain water better drains away, leaving the surface drier and allowing not only for improved safety for anyone walking on top of the cement floor, but increasing longevity of the floor both in terms of appearance and life span.”
What McClain particularly emphasizes is Titan’s commitment to environmental sustainability. Indeed, the company has been recognized for its efforts with numerous awards, including the Virginia Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence for Land Conservation, The Portland Cement Association Overall Environmental Excellence Award, and the joint U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy Star® award, among others.
“The technology has come a long way,” she says. “We use state-of-the-art equipment and processes to achieve the highest environmental standards. For example, cement can be made using a wet process, but we use a dry process that is at twice as energy efficient because you don’t need to evaporate the water.”
A showcase for Titan’s environmental commitment is its newest business, Carolinas Cement, which is currently building a new cement plant on the former Ideal Cement site in Castle Hayne, near Wilmington, N.C. “The plant will create high-paying jobs, sustainable tax revenues and at the same time respect the environment and conserve natural resources,” McClain notes. “Once operational, Carolinas Cement will be the only cement plant in North Carolina, which though it ranks among the country’s top 10 states in annual cement usage, currently relies on product imported from elsewhere.”
The plant is expected to be running by 2011 and is expected to produce up to 2.4 million tons annually. McClain says the plant will be the most energy-efficient and environmentally friendly cement plant in service. The new plant meets all National Ambient Air Quality Standards and state Air Toxic Standards. A closed-loop system recycles virtually all particulate dust back into the manufacturing process and final product; a water recycling system will store and reuse excess process and cooling water, without discharge into groundwater, as well as, to the extent practical, storm water runoff from production areas. Furthermore, spill and pollution prevention controls will eliminate any fuel or chemical emissions into the environment.
Not only does Titan practice sustainability in its own corporate processes, it also makes a product that is arguably a sustainable alternative. “In the past, cement production had gotten a reputation as a source of toxic pollutants, but Titan as a company has demonstrated that this need not be the case,” McClain notes. “The advantages to cement are obvious. Concrete lasts forever, which is why in hurricane zones it is becoming preferred to wood framing.”
She adds, “There was a time when asphalt became popular as a less expensive roadway material, but I think that’s changing. Rising oil prices are making asphalt more expensive, and making asphalt is a dirty process. The road itself doesn’t absorb as much heat, and hence is less susceptible to weather damage from extreme temperatures. Consequently, I think we’re going to see a return to greater use of concrete in roadways.”
Even so, the construction industry in particular has been hard hit under the current economy, and McClain concedes that recent sales have been flat. She is quick to add, however, that, “We wouldn’t be building a new plant in North Carolina if we didn’t see growing future opportunities for cement. The fact is that in the construction industry, cement is the second most used material next to water. And with today’s emphasis on sustainable building practices, cement use is going to play an even greater role. It’s a material that is highly durable and economical.”
Which is why they call it a concrete business.