Vulcan, Florida Rock merger to impact local quarry

Last week's merger of New Jersey-based Vulcan Materials Co. and Florida Rock Industries Inc. will have an immediate impact in Columbus, though the extent of that impact is unknown.

As part of the deal that allowed Vulcan to purchase Florida Rock for $4.6 billion, the two companies must divest of eight rock quarries in Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia.

One of those quarries is the Florida Rock facility on Smith Road that employs 76 people. There is a Vulcan Materials quarry on Fortson Road at the Muscogee-Harris County line that employs 48 people.

Both quarries produce coarse aggregate, a rock material that is used in concrete and asphalt.

The U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division filed a civil antitrust lawsuit last week in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. to block the proposed transaction. At the same time, the Department filed a proposed consent decree that, if approved by the court, would resolve the lawsuit and the Department's competitive concerns.

The sale was then finalized on Friday.

Susan Burns, a Vulcan Materials spokesperson based in New York, said the company was "working to integrate Florida Rock’s facilities and divest operations as required by the court and the Department of Justice."

It is unsure how Vulcan will divest the Florida Rock quarry and what will happen to those employees.

"We are exploring a variety of means of divesture, whether outright sales or, to the extent possible, asset swaps," Burns said. "We can confirm that we will be divesting the Florida Rock quarry in Columbus, Ga., and we will be providing those employees with more information as soon as we are able."

Officials at the local plants referred all questions to the Vulcan Materials Birmingham office, which referred them to a New York public relations firm.

If Vulcan had not been forced to unload the eight quarries, it could have driven prices up, the Justice Department claimed.

"Without the divestitures obtained by the Department, purchasers of coarse aggregate in parts of the Atlanta metropolitan area, in Columbus, Ga., in Chattanooga, Tenn., and in South Hampton Roads, Va., likely would have faced higher prices as a result of this transaction," said Thomas O. Barnett, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department's Antitrust Division. "The divestitures will ensure that these customers will continue to receive the benefits of competition."