Continental Cement Co. of Hannibal was one of three firms honoured for entrepreneurial leadership at Monday’s Tri-State Development Summit in Fairfield, Iowa.
“We’re really honoured,” said Tom Beck, Continental’s senior vice president. “We were surprised.”
Though it wasn’t apparent at the time, Continental took a huge risk in 2006 when it broke ground for a new $200 million environmentally-friendly kiln at its plant along Highway 79 on the south outskirts of Hannibal.
The project also included improvements at Green American Recycling at the Hannibal facility and work at company loading docks in St. Louis.
Before the kiln was put into operation in August 2008, the economy took a nosedive and orders for cement slowed considerably.
A decline in sales for the first time in more than a quarter-century forced Continental to lay off 71 workers for a month in February.
Demand has grown somewhat, but still hasn’t reached pre-recession levels.
“It’s a difficult period of time,” Beck admitted. “We’re doing everything we can to contain our costs. The reality is everybody’s hurting.”
Beck said the new kiln is “performing very well” and provides the “best avenue for success” in boosting business.
Tri-State Summit steering committee member Tom Boland of Hannibal praised Continental’s “huge investment” in the new kiln and called it “borderline astonishing.”
George Walley of the Northeast Missouri Economic Development Council also congratulated Continental.
“They’re one of the finest corporate citizens a community can have,” Walley said.
“They’ve a very high-quality employer. They went out on a limb and made a major investment.”