The Journal Gazette
Thursday, December 03, 2015 3:24 am

Stonemaker to open DeKalb HQ

Sherry Slater | The Journal Gazette

A Canadian manufacturer of decorative landscaping stones is investing more than $34 million to establish a regional headquarters in DeKalb County. 

The Waterloo operation is expected to create up to 85 new jobs within the next three years, state officials announced Monday.

Techo-Bloc, based in Saint-Hubert, Quebec, makes high-end paving stones and concrete blocks used to create patios, outdoor fireplaces, sidewalks, driveways, retaining walls and walkways surrounding swimming pools. 

The company now employs almost 500 at eight manufacturing and six wholesale distribution locations in North America. The Waterloo facility, 2397 County Road 27, is the site of the former Country Stone operation.

Illinois-based Country Stone Holdings Inc. in October informed Indiana officials that it might eliminate almost 200 jobs if it failed to negotiate its sale. It was unclear how many of those jobs were at the five locations divided among Waterloo, Fort Wayne and Avilla.

Techo-Bloc is starting with dry casting products in the existing 44,000-square-foot building. It will break ground on a 67,000-square-foot wet-casting facility next spring.

A company spokeswoman was unable to answer questions about production methods and other details Monday.

Founded in 1989, Techo-Bloc now serves the Northeast, Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions in the U.S. in addition to Canada.

Charles Ciccarello, Techo-Bloc’s president, said this multistate market seems primed for his company’s products.

"We chose Indiana because it is a great central state for Techo-Bloc to build and expand in the Midwest," he said in a statement. "It is very close to many of our potential distributors and has a great infrastructure to move material in and out of the neighboring states."

Plans call for shipping landscaping stones throughout Indiana and to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska and Tennessee.

Vendors that partner with the company play an important role in Techo-Bloc’s success, Ciccarello said. And, he added, "Indiana has proven to have an abundance of reliable quality vendors."

Most of the Waterloo jobs will be tied to production and will pay $33,300 a year, on average, said Ken McCrory, executive director of the DeKalb County Economic Development Partnership.

Anyone interested in working for Techo-Bloc can apply at a WorkOne office, McCrory said.

Techo-Bloc prides itself on the beauty and durability of its landscaping stones.

"Our artisans travel the world to curate the most beautiful stone pieces nature has to offer. Sculptors carve these stones to create the perfect shadows, enhancing the beauty of the stone’s textures," the company says on its website.

Pavers are interlocking pieces that can withstand vehicle traffic, while blocks or slabs are separate pieces more suitable for foot traffic. Techo-Bloc products, which come with a lifetime guarantee, are engineered to withstand deicing salt and ground fluctuations caused by freezing temperatures.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered Techo-Bloc Midwest Corp. up to $400,000 in conditional tax credits and up to $100,000 in training grants, based on the company’s hiring plans.

The DeKalb County Council will also consider offering the company tax incentives.

McCrory, the economic development official, welcomes the new employer to his county, which reported 4.1 percent unemployment in May.

"It adds an element of diversity to our manufacturing sector that I like," he said.

Originally from Elkhart, McCrory saw the way that the entire county suffered when the RV industry fell on hard times.

"They had all their eggs in one basket," he said.

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