Ask Marty Davis for a description of Cambria and his answer is immediate and emphatic. "Cambria is natural quartz surfacing," he replies. "We object to the term,'Engineered Stone,' because we don't think it is accurate, especially when you consider that Cambria consists of 93 percent quartz. In the food industry, for example, anything that contains 90 percent or more of any one substance is considered pure."
References to the food industry are regularly intertwined into every conversation Davis conducts regarding the manufacture of quartz surfaces. That is because Cambria was spawned from Davisco Foods International, a $450 million family-owned dairy products enterprise, started by Davis' grandfather, Stanley, in 1943. Marty and his siblings, Mitch, Matt, Jon and Julie, represent the third generation of ownership.
Under the direction of their father Mark, the Davis' preside over the dairy products company, which includes processing plants in Minnesota, South Dakota and Idaho. Marty is general manager of the Cambria operation, which is run "family-style" in much the same way that Davisco Foods is managed.
Incredibly, the leap from processing curds and whey into blocks of cheese, to pressing out sparkling slabs of quartz surfacing is shorter than you might think. "It all boils down to three basic elements," Marty explains. "I compare it to baking a cake in your kitchen at home. There is the mechanical function of combining ingredients, the chemical reaction between those ingredients and the effects of temperature over time. Controlling those elements is the secret to baking a delicious cake, just as it is with making cheese, or manufacturing high-quality quartz slabs."
Growth Through Diversification
A primary reason for Davisco's phenomenal growth from a locally-owned Mom-and-Pop variety creamery in rural Minnesota to one of the category's largest players, has been its willingness to recognize and invest in new markets and technologies as the industry evolved. In the mid-1990's the company sought to further diversify its interests into the non-food sector by purchasing a half-percent share in the ill-fated Technimar synthetic stone manufacturing plant located in Cohasset, Minn.
The new venture failed and the coalition of investors, such as the city of Cohasset and the Minneapolis Police Relief Association pension fund, lost $29 million. Ultimately, the plant never produced a single slab of material.
When Technimar's physical assets finally went on the auction block, Davisco purchased most of defunct company's production equipment for $8 million and spent another $3 million to dismantle, store and move the machinery from Cohasset to Le Sueur, Minn., where the company's home offices are located. A new 140,000 square foot plant was constructed to house the production facility and an additional $6 million worth of equipment was ordered from Breton SA in Italy to round out the operation. In total, the Davis family's initial investment in the Cambria venture is estimated at $35 million.
What they got for their money is a stunning lobby and reception area lavishly clad with Cambria quartz surfacing, backed up by a modern and efficient manufacturing plant. Equally important, the company negotiated an agreement granting it exclusive rights to manufacture product using the Breton process for the entire United States.
Careful Attention To Detail
The Davis' drew on decades of manufacturing and facilities management experience in the food processing industry when planning and constructing the Cambria plant. Material handling, cleanliness and efficient plant flow were carefully analyzed and provided for. So, too, were such ancillary, yet vitally important activities as a materials testing laboratory, a new product development laboratory and spacious maintenance/plant engineering facilities.