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Alabama marble is superior, expert says

SYLACAUGA — A man with 50 years of experience in marble and stone furnishing spoke to architects from around the state Friday.

Jim DeLoach, a Fayetteville native, spoke to the assembly at B.B. Comer Memorial Library. He talked about the use of the stones in architecture and gave examples of designs and buildings he has worked on.

He also talked about the potential of the marble available in the Sylacauga area.

“White marble right now is at a premium all over the world,” DeLoach said. “The Chinese, the Japanese and the oil-rich countries love white marble. So anywhere you can find white marble, it is at a premium.”

He said the area’s marble is of a higher quality than in Vermont and the few other places it is found in the country. It is also stronger than the white marble, often from Italy, used in architecture.

“From a standpoint of hardness and strength, Alabama marble is superior to the one we are using,” DeLoach said. “If you do the (physical properties) test, you will find Alabama marble comes out on top.”

The problem with local marble is not the quality but the mining, he said. The inexpensive labor in China and India, as well as the superior mechanical technology used in Italy, moved the United States out of the cut marble market for several decades.

The local quarries that mined for stone either shut down or transferred to businesses mining for calcium carbonate, marble powder used in a variety of products like plastic bags, carpeting and toothpaste.

The only area company mining for the stone is Alabama Marble.

“The quarry will be, at some point, where it can do most anything,” DeLoach said. “But it has to be developed. The quarry has been in existence maybe 15 years, but the people who are running it are gradually developing it more and more. Eventually, it will produce a lot of stone. It will be there, it just takes time.”

Mayor Sam Wright hosted the meeting and presentation, as part of the city’s “Magic of Marble” Festival. He said he hoped to familiarize architects in Alabama with the product available here.

“The more architects begin to use Alabama marble, the more the quarry here will see the need for expanding, to put more into equipment and henceforth hire more people,” Wright said. “It is just a supply and demand thing. I think once they get to that point, they can keep moving to the next level.”

DeLoach showed examples of his work using marble, granite and other stone in buildings all over the world. He showed designs and progress from his current project, the Devon Energy Tower in Oklahoma City.

The proposed building will be the tallest in the state, just shy of Dallas’ tallest, The Bank of America Building. DeLoach showed techniques with the architects on the quality control of stone.

“One of the things we as stone guys need to know is what you expect,” he said. ‘To get your expectations over to us and to let us know what is in your mind is really important.”

DeLoach and his wife, Dot, founded Architectural Stone Imports Inc. in 1990. According to the company’s website, he began his career at the old Alabama Marble Company as a draftsman and progressed into fabrication, quarrying, installation and sales with Georgia Marble.

DeLoach started his own business in 1979, furnishing and installing stone. Today, 100 high-rise buildings, more than 1,000 mausoleums, numerous interiors and high-end hotels have marble or granite furnished by his company.