By Stew Slater, Staff reporter
This weekend, the St. Marys Cement Company is marking its 100th anniversary with an invitation to its business partners, area schoolchildren, and the general public to visit its facilities on Water Street and Thomas Street in St. Marys.
Started in 1912 by John Grieve Lind —who had previously become wealthy in the Klondike Gold Rush and first became involved in the cement industry in Owen Sound — the St. Marys Portland Cement Company grew quickly to become the predominant industrial employer in St. Marys and area. Now owned by the Brazil-based Votorantim group of cement companies, it still employs approximately 100 people at the St. Marys site.
This weekend’s celebration will be a two-day affair, beginning Friday, Sept. 14 when about 350 schoolchildren will get the opportunity to tour the Thomas Street Quarry —where a specially-timed blast will be conducted by Cement Company employees —followed by a visit to the Water Street manufacturing facility.
Then on Saturday, Sept. 15, the public Open House will include plant and quarry bus tours, displays and a barbecue. It will run from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. St. Marys Cement has asked its customers and suppliers to join them in celebration, but they've also sent out an open invitation to the public to take part.
“We haven’t had an open house in quite a few years,” explained Natacha Lago, Operations Manager at the St. Marys plant. “And, as much as we have an open door policy when it comes to the public coming down to see us at the plant, this is a time to give everybody a chance to find out more about what we do.”
On-site tours will not include the plant’s interior, but Lago says there will be full explanations of the making of cement - both in-person, from Cement Company employees, as well as through displays.
“There are eight different types of cement that we make, and people will be able to find out all about them.”
Two other divisions of Votorantim’s St. Marys Cement group — Readi-mix and Aggregates — also have significant operations in the St. Marys facilities. They'll be on display too.
And St. Marys filmmaker John McKinnon was granted full access to create a video about the production of cement — which will be screened repeatedly at the Open House.
Also on hand will be the Cement Company’s partners from Pond Biofuels, who will provide tours of the plant's innovative biofuel-from-algae waste treatment system.