Bluegrass Materials – A New Company Formed by the Baker Family of Florida Rock Fame – Renovates a Bowling Green, Ky., Plant for Future Growth.
By Mark S. Kuhar
The name “Baker” is synonymous with successful stone production. Since 1929, when Thompson Baker founded the company that eventually grew into Florida Rock, the family has been actively involved in the aggregates industry, on both the state and national level.
When Vulcan Materials purchased Florida Rock in 2007, the Baker family was still running the show. John D. Baker II, Thompson Baker’s son, was president of the company, and took a seat on Vulcan’s Board of Directors. His son Ted Baker – representing the third generation of the stone-producing Baker family – stayed on with Vulcan after the acquisition to run its plants in Northern Florida.
Both Bakers left Vulcan Materials in 2009, and began looking for a capital partner to finance an acquisition, and more importantly, some high-quality aggregates properties to acquire. Mind you this was in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
“Our pitch was, there are companies right now who are looking to divest in order to clean up their balance sheet,” said Ted Baker, president of Bluegrass Materials. “That search led us to Lindsay Goldberg, a private investment company out of New York.”
A deal was struck between the Bakers and Lindsey Goldberg – a deal that also included Cort Dondero, a former Florida Rock employee, and Blue Water Worldwide, owned by the Griswold family – which led to the purchase in early 2010 of six aggregates operations, three stone yards and a concrete block plant in Kentucky from Cemex.
“The plants were in good strategic locations in Kentucky, had ample reserves, and were already operating successfully,” Ted Baker said. “They were all number one in their respective markets, and had good safety records. It was a nice set of quarries, a great group of people – former Rinker and Cemex employees – and a perfect opportunity for us.”
Going Bowling Green
One of the aggregates plants acquired in the deal, located in Bowling Green, Ky., was a successful operation that first opened in the 1950s. But Bluegrass knew for the plant to be successful in the future, it was going to need an upgrade.
“We broke ground last year on a new plant,” Ted Baker said. “There were not a lot plants being built, so we were able to get a lot of interest from contractors.” The rebuild was headed up by a former Martin Marietta engineer named George Seamen, and Larry Bowers, a former Florida Rock engineer. Process Machinery was tapped to bring the new plant design to fruition.
The heart of the new 400+ tph plant is a Lippman heavy duty 36 x 50 jaw crusher. Material from the quarry face is delivered to the crusher by two Euclid 60-ton haul trucks, which are first loaded by a Caterpillar 988G loader.
“Material from the jaw can be scalped to make rip rap or base if we want to,” Ted Baker said. “Then a stacker moves material to two surge piles for asphalt stone and concrete stone.”
Next, material is conveyed to a 4 ¼ Symons secondary cone crusher, which was a carryover from the old plant. “The deposit, which consists of four distinct ledges, is not characterized by highly abrasive material,” Ted Baker said. “This keeps us from having to change the wear liners.”
Material then splits off to two 8 x 20 quadruple-deck Deister screens. An Impact Service Corp. vertical shaft impactor is used for the tertiary phase. “We do no washing at all at the plant,” Ted Baker said. “Material goes to a Sturtevant 16-ft. Whirlwind air classifier which creates the sand product we sell. We also make lime at the plant. We turn 100 percent of the material we run into product. There is no waste.”
An on-site asphalt plant owned by Scotty’s Contracting is the quarry’s main customer, however it supplies stone to contractors throughout its market area as well. The company’s main products are washed sand, #89s, #57s, #67s and scrubber stone.
“None of our quarries are mega-quarries,” Ted Baker said. “We own medium-sized quarries that are manageable and have great potential.”
The quarry operations at its other Kentucky locations came equipped with newer equipment than the Bowling Green location, thus, they won’t have to go through a makeover any time soon.
Since the Kentucky acquisitions, Bluegrass Materials has added operations in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. “We want to remain a Southeastern company,” Ted Baker said. “All of our investors are in it for the long term. We want to continue to find good operations and keep growing.”