Minnesota Marquee

Two new bridges spell a significant year for Cemstone Products Co. and reinforce its role as a gold standard operator in ready mixed concrete. The first

Don Marsh

Two new bridges spell a significant year for Cemstone Products Co. and reinforce its role as a gold standard operator in ready mixed concrete. The first bridge connects Minnesota’s Twin Cities and is engineered for a 100-year service life; the second is a strategic market link to decades of business.

Built with federal and state scrutiny at high magnification, the Mississippi River-spanning St. Anthony Falls Bridge challenged the Mendota Heights, Minn.-based producer to deliver upward of 70,000 yd. of mass, high performance, self-consolidating and conventional concrete on a grueling November 2007-August 2008 schedule (note 100-Hour Work Week box, page 22). Cemstone and general contractor Flatiron-Manson had 14 months to build the new Interstate 35W crossing Û a segmental concrete structure replacing a dated steel design that failed in August 2007 Û but finished in 11 months.

Unfolding over a much longer timeframe has been the second bridge of 2008: A speedy central mixed plant anchoring a 29-acre site from which Cemstone can access high-growth markets to the Twin Cities’ north and west. The ready mixed operation is phase one of site development, to be followed by a maintenance building, plus rail, silo and bunker facilities enabling major cement and aggregate transfer and storage. The plant is presently configured with a single alley served by a 12-yd. tilting drum mixer. Future capacity expansion provisions include an upper plant enclosure opening for a second main conveyor, fed directly from rail through a 500-ft. tunnel running parallel to the initial dump hoppers and below-grade transfer belt.

Cemstone anchors the 200-acre Wicht Industrial Park along Interstate 94 in Dayton, a town just beyond the northwest corner of the Interstate 494/694 belt encompassing Minneapolis and St. Paul. Underdeveloped, yet surrounded by communities that have seen two decades of rapid expansion, Dayton is centered in the path of a growth corridor linking the Twin Cities and St. Cloud, Minn., to the northwest. The corridor includes large portions of Sherburne and Wright counties; they ranked 56th and 78th, respectively, on the 100 Fastest Growing U.S. Counties (> 10,000 population) as reported by the Census Bureau earlier this year. Those rankings reflect population growth from April 2000-July 2007, a window during which the Census estimated increases in number of housing units by county, as follows: Sherburne, 31 percent; Wright, 39 percent; and, in Cemstone’s main turf, Hennepin, 8 percent.

Further underscoring the corridor’s potential has been state and municipal transportation officials’ decision to construct a commuter rail line from St. Cloud to downtown Minneapolis to relieve the increasingly congested I-94. Dayton’s most immediate transportation infrastructure prospect is an I-94 interchange, a boon to Cemstone, neighboring businesses, and nearby residential developments.


Opened in Spring 2008, Dayton is one of 20 Cemstone ready mixed plants within a roughly 50-mile radius of the Twin Cities. It replaces an operation at a leased sand & gravel pit site in the Dayton-neighboring town of Maple Grove.

The new plant siting and design attest to the patience, diligence and vision of Cemstone Senior Vice President of Operations Tim Becken. When you build a plant in this market, you have to think about a future that is 20 years from now, he says. In the next 15 years, the northern Twin Cities will become an import market for aggregates. That view drove a nearly decade-long pursuit of the Dayton site, he adds, which is sandwiched between I-94 and a rail line, and was one of few rail-served plots a consultant pinpointed as a long-term replacement for the Maple Grove plant.

Industrial park zoning and plant permitting have spanned two Dayton city administrations. In addition to numerous public meetings where it advanced the case for a concrete operation, Cemstone offered the city council a bus tour of other ready mixed plants. Stops included the newest operation, Cemstone North Metro, in East Bethel, 30 miles above Minneapolis. Much as Concrete Products (Standard Bearer, August 2006, pages 26-28) and other industry visitors previously had observed, Dayton officials saw in East Bethel a camouflaged facility where no stone was left unturned for sound environmental practices, safety and efficiency.

Industry colleagues, customers, agency representatives and out-of-town guests visiting Dayton will find features proven at East Bethel and other recently built or overhauled Cemstone properties, notably, abundant concrete pavement and storm and process water capture; low-wattage, high output compact fluorescent lighting throughout the plant equipment mezzanine and catwalks; and, galvanized steel for maintenance-prone components and structures. Among Dayton plant features new to Cemstone are galvanized fiber dosing and slump adjustment racks built at heights approximating truck cabs’ top steps, allowing drivers quicker and safer access to pre-and post-loading tasks.

When circulating the main plant enclosure and second-level offices, Dayton plant visitors will be hard pressed to spot a single board foot of lumber or square foot of drywall. This place is a showcase for sustainable development using our products, explains Tim Becken, pointing to the enclosure’s 62-ft. insulated precast wall panels and ground-face concrete masonry unit interior walls. The exposed aggregate precast panels, provided by Minnesota-based hollow core giant Fabcon, bear on a 12-ft. stem wall cast with decorative formliner. The wall is treated with stains sold through Contractor Supply, a Cemstone business with freestanding stores and smaller units co-located with concrete plants. The ground-face CMU are produced at the company’s lone block plant near the Twin Cities.

Other Dayton plant features offering merchandising potential include floors cast with integrally colored mixes available from many company plants; landscaping stone and small boulders from a Cemstone quarry; and, a batch office concrete countertop fabricated and finished with Buddy Rhodes-brand dry mix and coatings sourced from Contractor Supply. Cemstone staff handled the countertop fabrication and assisted with lighter duty aspects of plant construction and paving. As future schedules permit, employees will continue placing concrete in the yard and helping ramp up the maintenance building and raw material-handling systems.