Flight 93 Memorial has a Hudson connection
Concrete isn't what it used to be. Tom Graf, owner of Hudson based Concrete Arts and Lifetime Floors, knows that first hand.
Graf found out early this year that one of his products was being considered as one of the construction materials for the Flight 93 National Memorial in Stoystown, Penn. The first phase of construction is well underway with completion expected by September. The second phase will not be complete until 2014.
Custom-made to meet the architect's specifications for color and texture, the product Revealed was chosen and is now being used for the project.
Graf founded his business, Concrete Arts, fifteen years ago in Hudson. At the time he did traditional concrete work such as pouring floors, foundations and walls along with doing creative concrete stamping.
Two things created a big change in how his company now operates; the economy and technology.
"It may be called a recession," said Graf. "It is a depression for the construction fields. The traditional concrete market has evaporated." Graf, who has a marketing degree and worked towards a master's discovered those fields did not give him the creative outlet he wanted.
"We are half the size we used to be," said Graf, The Twin Cities native moved to Hudson and founded Concrete Arts in the mid-1990s. He was no stranger to concrete having grown up in his dad's concrete business. "The first question you ask is, 'How can I save money?'"
Today, concrete is a completely different field, one his dad may not even recognize. Graf recognized that while saving money was fundamental to survival, technology and innovation were the keys to the same. As a result, he invested in research and development which has given him an edge.
Five years ago he started a second company, LifeTime Floors. He developed a product called Revealed, which is what is being used at the Flight 93 Memorial. The product is sold throughout Canada and the United States but must be installed by licensed and trained contractors. Revealed can be found in Calgary, San Antonio, Iowa, San Diego and locally at the St. Croix I-94 rest area.
"It can give the customer design flexibility with this product," said Graf. "Its nature is sustainability using recycled glass, recycled granite, fiber and fly ash."
It is mixed in Hudson in small batches from 50 pounds or supersacks of 2,500 pounds.
To listen to Graf, as he reaches for a handful of the product, is like listening to a chef. He knows every ingredient and quantity needed to create the color, texture and effect the client wants. It represents the merger of technology and tradition providing a product that is a long lasting and creative, exposed aggregate surface.
"We are still on a shoestring budget," said Graf, but due to his pursuing niche markets, both his companies are still surviving. "I love what I do. Being a business owner now days is hard and I am thankful that the employees I was able to keep on stayed with me."
Concrete Arts' services include stamped concrete, exposed systems, polished concrete, precast concrete, wall plasters, decorative toppings and decorative stains. The new technology allows concrete to be used for sinks, countertops, floors and wall covering. It can take on the character of nearly any other product from wood to stone to plaster.
"It is the most widely used product in the world," said Graf. "What we are doing today did not exist three years ago. The addition of polymers and other additives to the mix it peaked my interest. Every one of our products has a decorative aspect."
A visit to Concrete Arts offices and showroom, including the expansive demonstration parking lot reveals just what can be created with concrete today.