PITTSBORO — Nearly two decades ago, 3M’s plant opened south of Pittsboro, manufacturing the granular material that goes on shingles and quarried from Andesite rock that’s on site. The 3M manufacturing site hosted a Chatham Economic Development Corporation-sponsored tour March 7.
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PITTSBORO — Nearly two decades ago, 3M’s plant opened south of Pittsboro, manufacturing the granular material that goes on shingles and quarried from Andesite rock that’s on site.
The 3M manufacturing site, which hosted a Chatham Economic Development Corporation-sponsored tour March 7, is 95,000 square feet and sits on about 2,100 acres, though the company is only using 500 of them. The quarry itself is managed by Luck Stone which gives 3M first pick of the rock for its purposes, selling the remaining quarried stone to commercial and residential customers in the area.
Pittsboro Mayor Cindy Perry, Pittsboro Commissioners Jay Farrell and Bette Wilson Foley, Alan Byrd of Chatham County Emergency Management, and Cathy Swindell, Director of Industry Services at Central Carolina Community College who managed the training of 3M’s first employees when it opened, took part in the tour. According to Blake Arnett, the plant manager, 3M as a coporate entity brings in $32.8 billion in revenue each year and has had 100-plus straight years of dividends. The Pittsboro plant employs 56 full-time employees who earn at least $20 per hour, which places its employees within the 95th percentile of earnings in Chatham County. In addition, the plant supports about 90 additional jobs outside of 3M for its production.
The mining permit for 3M is valid for about 130 more years, at which point the quarry will be 900 feet deep, according to Arnett. After the quarry is spent, the land will be used by local governments as one of the largest water reserves in the state. Currently, the quarry is on its fourth lift, which is the term for each level down the quarry goes. Arnett notes that the company is only using a portion of its entire land in order to ensure enough buffers for the surrounding properties.
“We are good neighbors,” Arnett said.
Arnett also noted that the company has been making strides each year to reduce pollution and improve sustainability. For example, the company uses reclaimed water, about 250,000 gallons per day, which is treated at the Pittsboro Wastewater Treatment plant. At the time, it was the first in the area to do so. This year, the plant has a goal of being landfill-free, working to ensure that any waste is recycled or handled in other ways to reduce its footprint. The company has also modified its trucks to increase fuel economy and reduce the stress the trucks put on the road surfaces.
The process for manufacturing the roof shingle granules begins in the quarry. Luck Stone quarries the stone and provides the 3M manufacturing plant with Andesite rock that is about four inches in diameter. That rock then goes through a crushing and screening process. The rock rolls around in large steel barrels to crush. It is then taken via conveyor belt to screening; there, screens allow rocks that are just the right size to fall through. Anything too large is sent back to the crusher while anything too small is transferred to a “mountain” on another part of the property. This process occurs about four times per rock, each time reducing the size by four.
Once the rock reaches its optimal size, approximately one-sixteenth of an inch, it is brought to another area of the plant for coloring. The rock is tested for dust content before the coloring process. Once the product is dyed, a coating is used, and the stone is placed in a kiln to set. The finished product is then placed in one of 100 shipping silos in preparation for trucks to deliver it to their customers.
At 17 years, the Pittsboro 3M plant is the youngest in the 3M corporation. During that time, the company has worked to develop good relationships in the community and develop talent from within the organization, according to Arnett. For example, when 3M constructed its water tower for the reuse water from the Pittsboro Wastewater Treatment Plant, it donated the remaining land around the tower to the town of Pittsboro. That land is now known as Rock Ridge Park.
The company also donates regularly to non-profits in the area including the Salvation Army and Rebuilding Together. The company has also provided $3 million to Chatham County Schools and $35,000 to Central Carolina Community College. 3M also works with CCCC on its apprenticeship program where employees go to classes in the evening, eventually earning a Diploma in Industrial Systems and Industrial Maintenance Mechanic Journeyman’s certification.