Georgetown’s largest quarry turns 50

(Austin, Texas)  —  In 2006, the family-owned and -operated business was No. 4 on the U.S. Geological Survey’s list of top producing quarries.

The quarry spans about 7,500 acres in Georgetown and Round Rock and is the state’s largest. The multi-million dollar operation employs more than 140 and quarries 10 million tons of Edwards limestone each year.

This summer is the crushed-stone giant’s 50th anniversary in Georgetown.Texas Crushed Stone in Georgetown

“We’re proud to have been in the community for this long. It’s been really rewarding,” company president Bill Snead said. “The communities around us have been growing fast so it’s been a very good place to be in business.”
Company history

Edwin Brazelton Snead, Bill’s father, went into business for himself when he founded E.B. Snead Construction Company in 1932. Ten years later, he opened his first quarry in Austin, just southwest of MoPac and FM 2222. In 1947, he incorporated Texas Crushed Stone and also opened his second quarry, at the corner of MoPac and Far West Boulevard in Austin.

In 1958, with the limestone almost depleted in the second quarry, E.B. began looking for a new quarry site, which he found near Georgetown.

At the same time, the Missouri Pacific Railroad was trying to abandon a branch line railroad running between Round Rock and Georgetown. Some Georgetown businessmen, however, wanted to ensure that their city would continue to be served by two railroads.

In those days – before IH 35 was built – having a quarry that far from Austin typically made shipping difficult, but E.B. chose to locate his new quarry along this rail line for easy access in hauling to Austin. He and the businessmen worked together and incorporated the Georgetown Railroad.

“My dad had the idea that maybe we could ship to a broader market by rail,” Snead said. “We have developed the rail market. About half of what comes out of the quarry goes by rail.”

The Georgetown quarry began on about 600 acres, and over time, E.B. amassed more and more land. Snead said the company has not added land in 20 years and does not think they will add to it again. In 1965, the second Austin quarry closed. That same year, 25-year-old Bill, a Texas A&M University graduate who had just served a three-year tour of duty with the U.S. Air Force, began working for his father full time.

Today, Bill Snead’s son Kent Snead also works for the family business. Although it has been 61 years since E.B. Snead founded the company, his descendants are still committed to his original principles.

“The main thing that our customers look for is value,” Snead said. “They’re looking for a competitive price, and they need to have the material available when they need it. Then they look for consistent quality. Those are the things we really focus on.”
Uses of limestone

Limestone is a rock primarily composed of calcium carbonate that can form organically or chemically.

No products are made from the rock at Texas Crushed Stone. The company simply removes limestone from the earth, breaks it into various sizes and supplies the resulting crushed stone, also known as aggregate, to various end users, such as ready-mix concrete and hot mix asphalt plants.

The company’s top sellers are used in concrete, hot mix asphalt, as a road base material and agricultural limestone, a soil fertilizer primarily used in East Texas and Louisiana.

“Most of [the aggregate] goes into some form of paving, be it a highway, a parking lot or a site slab,” Snead said. “It’s really kind of a basic material for modern society. There’s no substitute. Most of the time, the only time [Americans] get off some form of pavement is to mow the yard or maybe go to the park.”

Every day, an average of 40,000 tons of rock is quarried at Texas Crushed Stone. Fifteen hundred trucks and 100 rail cars then ship the rock to construction jobs in Central and East Texas.

Snead said Americans use about 10 tons per capita per year, but in the Austin area, it is closer to 14 tons because of the continued growth. An area that is static does not need as much stone as one that is growing, he said.

An inexpensive commodity, limestone from Texas Crushed Stone sells for between $4.50 and $7.50 per ton. Snead said he can sell it so cheaply because it is a local product and because the company has a very mechanized process in place, producing 38 tons for every man-hour.

“As a general rule, whoever’s closest furnishes the aggregate,” Snead said. “Just about everything in this area would have rock from us or one of our competitors.”
Economy’s effect

Residential construction in the United States has decreased over the last couple of years, causing the production of crushed stone to decrease as well, said Jason C. Willett, crushed stone commodity specialist with the United States Geological Survey.

Even with this trend, Snead said the company’s biggest market is new subdivisions.

“If there’s a slow down in the housing industry, we’ll definitely face a slow down in our sales,” Snead said. “It’s really too early to tell if that’s the case or not.”

Snead said that historically when oil and gas business is good, his business is good.

People often ask Snead what will happen to his quarry when all the rock has been removed and the land is reclaimed. He points to his family’s first two quarries as examples. At the first quarry site near MoPac and FM 2222, Highland Park Elementary School was built. The quarry at Far West Boulevard and MoPac now has Murchison Middle School, H-E-B, a library, a hospital and some office buildings.

In Georgetown, Berry Creek Country Club is on a former quarry site.

“Historically there was a lot of quarrying done in west Round Rock,” Snead said. “A lot of the development is done in [those] quarries, and you don’t notice. You don’t even know it’s there.”

At this point, Snead said his company has removed about one-third of the Georgetown quarry’s rock.

“We’ve been here 50 years and hope to be here another 50 years,” he said.
Crushed stone by the numbers

    * 50: Products manufactured by Texas Crushed Stone
    * 400 million tons: Amount Texas Crushed Stone has quarried since 1958
    * 3,212: Active crushed stone operations in the United States in 2006
    * 174: Active crushed stone operations in Texas in 2006
    * 8*: Active crushed stone operations in Williamson County in 2006 (* Not all-inclusive)
    * 68%: Amount of limestone and dolomite that made up total amount of crushed stone produced domestically in 2007
    * 10 tons: Crushed stone used per person per year
    * 1,500 tons: Crushed stone needed for a family of three to move into the area
    * 14 million tons: Crushed stone the Greater Austin Area consumes each year
    * 420 million tons: Crushed stone the state of Texas consumes each year
    * 1.59 billion tons: Crushed stone the United States consumed in 2007
    * $14 billion: Value of crushed stone produced in United States in 2007

Sources: Bill Snead, owner of Texas Crushed Stone; Jason C. Willett, United States Geological Survey

Georgetown Railroad Company

In addition to Texas Crushed Stone, Bill Snead holds the majority interest in the Georgetown Railroad, which serves nine customers. With 20 miles of main line track and 18 miles of side track, the line begins just north of Sam Bass Road in Round Rock and runs through Georgetown and Weir to Granger. Georgetown Railroad Company has 20 employees and a fleet of four locomotives.

Written by Shannon Colletti

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