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Holcim Ste. Genevieve Opening Draws All-Star Delegation

Capping nearly 10 years of permitting and more than $1 billion in equipment, construction and site investments, Holcim (US) Inc. hosted an official opening

Steven Prokopy

Capping nearly 10 years of permitting and more than $1 billion in equipment, construction and site investments, Holcim (US) Inc. hosted an official opening celebration last month of its newest plant, located in Ste. Genevieve County, Mo. Executives from both Holcim (US) and its Swiss parent company Holcim Group, joined officials from the Obama Administration, members of Congress, local and state elected officials, community leaders, citizens advisory members, and others who were instrumental in the plant's progress from the permitting stage to the beginning of operations in late 2009.

Among the high-profile speakers was U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who praised Holcim for creating jobs (the plant has 250 employees), thus playing an important role in the nation's economic recovery, and for making a product key to rebuilding transportation infrastructure through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). As we finish out this portion of economic recovery, and in anticipation of a new transportation bill, we will work with our friends in Congress÷on a new transportation bill. There will be a large number of jobs that will continue in transportation in building roads, fixing bridges, and making sure we have the kind of high-speed rail system that I think America really wants. But we can't do it without cement. So, we are delighted to pass by here today and say ÎCongratulationsÌ on using our great natural resources here in Missouri and the great natural resource of the river to deliver this product around the country.

Other speakers and attendees at the event included U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce Nicole Lamb-Hale; Surgeon General of the United States Vice Admiral Regina Benjamin, M.D.; Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO, 3rd District); Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO, 8th District); Missouri Governor Jay Nixon; Missouri Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder; Missouri State Senator Kevin Engler; Ambassador of Switzerland Urs Ziswiler; Holcim Ltd. Chairman of the Executive Committee Benoit-H. Koch; Holcim (US) President and CEO Bernard Terver; and, Holcim (US) Vice President of Manufacturing and Ste. Genevieve Plant Manager Jeff Ouhl Û the latter three delivering lunchtime speeches.

Some attendees found Congressman Carnahan's visit strange, since he voted in favor of last year's Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act Û or as some referred to it the cap and trade bill Û a measure that Holcim was quite vocal in opposing, due to its potential to regulate and tax many cement companies out of business. Still, he seemed on board with the plant's development, noting, It's critical that this is happening at a time of great economic uncertainty in our country, and I think it's a great signal that Americans are at our best when we meet a new challenge. We've seen some strong signs that things are turning around Û we're coming off of three straight months of job growth in Missouri Û but we cannot take our foot off the gas. Today is a day when you can see the results of these group efforts.

An 11th-hour addition to the program was Surgeon General Benjamin, who explained that her connection to Holcim dates back to days running the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic, destroyed in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Alabama Gulf Coast. While in the early stages of recovering from the devastation, Dr. Benjamin was contacted by the plant manager of Holcim's Theodore, Ala., operation with a donation of money and cement to aid in rebuilding the clinic. Additionally, plant employees organized and challenged other local businesses likewise to donate funds and services to the clinic. She also commended Holcim's occupational, environmental and community health practices.

Ranking prominently among global cement-manufacturing facilities and the largest single-kiln line operation worldwide Û with a production capacity of 4 million metric tons/year Û Ste. Genevieve is also one of the most environmentally efficient and safest plants. In addition to implementing extensive emissions controls at the site, the producer has set aside the majority of the 3,900-acre property to preserve and protect it in the natural state. Holcim (US) is working with an expert conservation partner to manage the habitat surrounding the facility. Moreover, the plant will transport as much as 75 percent of its product to terminals by barge, with many of the raw materials Û including coal, gypsum and fly ash Û shipped via the Mississippi River. While roughly 1,700 acres is permitted for quarry operations, the company has in place an ongoing reclamation plan that will restore the land that has been mined, ensuring that no more than 200 acres of land is actively mined at any one time. To date, the company has created or restored more than 60 acres of new wetlands to offset any impacts from construction.

According to a study conducted by the Center for Economic and Business Research at Southeast Missouri State University, the economic impact of the Ste. Genevieve plant for the state will be substantial. The operation already has been a boon for the state's economy by creating and supporting thousands of jobs and leading to millions of dollars in annual economic activity. This is a great day for our customers, our company, our community and this country, said Holcim's Bernard Terver. This project has already created hundreds of manufacturing and construction jobs and, combined with our strong distribution network, positions Holcim (US) to provide consistently reliable, domestically-produced cement throughout the central part of the United States for generations to come. Holcim is also committed to sustainability, and for us, there are three important elements that must be considered to address sustainability: economic, environmental and social. First, since we will be here for the long term, we have an obligation to operate at the highest of performance levels. Second, we have to take care of our environment, like natural resources and the use of alternative fuels. We must also meet all of our environmental requirements. Third, we have to take care of people living around our plants and build long-term relationships with them.

Ste. Genevieve replaces capacity lost to plant closings due to company streamlining and record consumption drops. Older Holcim (US) mills in Dundee, Mich.; Mason City, Iowa; Clarksville, Mo.; and Artesia, Miss., have been mothballed in recent years. Combined capacity for the four closed plants is about 3.7 million metric tons/year. In late 2008, Holcim (US) also shut down two of its vintage Great Lakes-area mills in Dundee, Mich., and Clarksville, Mo. Through the company's logistics infrastructure, powder from the new Missouri plant will be able to reach 19 states in all, from North Dakota as far south as Texas.