Rockwell Lime sold to Belgium conglomerate

Quarry status quo: New owners, old name Rockwell Lime to keep sending products across country (MANITOWOC, Wisconsin) – The two trucks go back and forth all day long, hauling limestone from the quarry to the crushing plant, as much as 35 tons each half-mile trip. After processing, the limestone is converted into a variety of products for use in road construction, concrete, landscaping and other applications. Last month, members of the Brisch family sold their century-old company – Rockwell Lime – to a Belgium conglomerate, Carmeuse Lime. But the Rockwell brand is not going away. Some 80,000 tons of lime will be shipped this year, in bags and in railroad boxcars, to about 250 customers nationwide. The names of the different products will stay the same. After reviewing offers from other companies over the years, the Brisches chose Carmeuse, which has 14 manufacturing sites in North America. As opposed to some industries, those who excavate and process limestone in the United States do not have to worry about overseas competitors. The amount of lime products made and used in the U.S. is increasing. “China cannot make our product and ship it here. We’re not vulnerable to a foreign country that could make it a lot cheaper,” said Joseph G. Brisch on Monday from Rockwell Lime’s office, 4110 Rockwood Road. The trend in the industry is consolidation, but not outsourcing, said the former Rockwell Lime chairman of the board. With the acquisition, titles have changed for the third-generation Brisches managing the plant, about seven miles from Manitowoc. One son, Don Brisch, is now operations manager, with another son, Joseph H. Brisch, as sales manager, and Joseph G.’s nephew, James, becoming accounting manager. What hasn’t changed is the quality of their niche product – dolomitic hydrated lime – which Carmeuse coveted to add to its product lineup. Original quarry just 14 acresRockwell Lime has created its reputation for quality over the past 100 years. The company was founded in 1906 by 10 contractors from Chicago, including Michael Brisch and his three brothers. The company’s main office was located on Rockwell Street in Chicago, hence the name of the business venture. But why did they buy the original 14 acres, 180 miles north, in Manitowoc County? Retired since 1994, Joseph G. Brisch isn’t sure what prompted his uncle Thomas to come to this area, other than the knowledge that the Niagara Escarpment, with limestone deposits, was a dominant geologic feature in the region. Rockwell Lime property now includes 300 acres, with 100 acres actively drilled and blasted year-round. Many usesThe uses of lime have increased and evolved over thousands of years. Its earliest uses were in agriculture and building, including creation of the pyramids of ancient Egypt. With the rapid growth of chemical process industries at the turn of the 20th century, lime began to be used as an inexpensive chemical reagent. It is extensively used in steel manufacturing, mining and glass manufacture. It has numerous and growing applications in the environmental sector, including air and water pollution control. Exhaust from the Manitowoc Public Utilities boilers, for example, goes through a bed of limestone that captures sulphur and nitrous oxide. Lime also plays a growing role in soil stabilization for highway and runway construction, as an asphalt additive, and in the paper industry. The processAt Rockwell Lime, limestone is conveyed to kilns, operating at some 2,400 degrees. The heat drives off carbon dioxide and “quick lime” is created. It is sold to act as a flux and remove impurities in the manufacture of steel. Water can be added to quick lime for conversion to hydrated lime. The dolomitic hydrated lime the local company is known for is about 48 percent calcium oxide and 34 percent magnesium oxide, with the remainder chemically combined water. Many homes built in northeast Wisconsin, like Jim Brisch’s, have plaster containing a Rockwell Lime product. With his two first cousins, he works out of an office about a mile east of Country Highway R, also built using lime from the quarry across Rockwood Road. Carmeuse is a family-owned business with an even longer history, founded in 1860. Their acquisition starts a new chapter for Rockwell Lime, one that Don Brisch is excited about. He anticipates Carmeuse investing funds for continued technology and capital improvements. The acquisition “gives us the ability to expand our production capabilities,” he said, relishing the thought of Rockwell Lime entering a second century with an even stronger market presence. By Charlie Mathews Herald Times Reporter

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