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Top sellers for CornerStone Marketing Group.

One way to grow your company in tough economic times is to develop niche decorative products. For many producers, proprietary mixes and units have been a silver lining in a cloudy year. Specialty aggregates are the key ingredients to the proprietary recipes used on a wide range of projects in the industrial, luxury home, and sustainable construction markets.

While these niche products are often high-priced, they also are low-volume. This makes it difficult to secure the right specialty aggregate at an economical price. That's where aggregate suppliers such Cornerstone Marketing Group, of Frankenmuth, Mich., can help. The firm supplies specialty aggregates to ready-mix, precast, and block producers.

Cornerstone supplies product for all types of projects, from mansions to sports arenas, by offering more than 2500 varieties of stone from 250 quarries in the U.S. and Canada. Founder and president Scott Moore says his granite, marble, and quartz are ideal for high-end products such as columns, balusters, and architectural block with exposed aggregate.

Along with the rest of the construction industry, margins on specialized projects are shrinking. Cornerstone offers integrated supply services to keep products cost-effective for producers. By buying in bulk, Moore can pass on volume discount savings. “It's a more competitive market out there for concrete producers, so we pass on any savings we can,” he says. “We all have to do our part in an economy like this.”

Moore encourages producers to keep offering innovative products, including new and different aggregates. Architects and owners want different color choices and environmentally friendly options.

“You can cut back and reinvent yourself by cutting less popular products,” he says. “But keep introducing the fresh choices your customers demand. It will keep you in their minds, and the benefits will immediately affect your bottom line.”

Moore says, “The trend to use natural exposed surfaces for decorative applications has increased the demand for fresh architectural concrete products. The more natural the products look and feel, the better. Hearty earth-tone colors (darker browns) to softer earth-tone colors (lighter browns, tans, and creams) are also popular.”

Green building also presents opportunities. “There are very few growth segments today, but sustainable construction is still expanding,” Moore says. In response, Cornerstone has created its EnviroGreen Rock line. Visit www.cornerstoneyard.com and www.theconcreteproducer.com.

Following are examples of specialty aggregates used for a wide range of applications.

Concrete in a nutshell

Eco-Shell, an English walnut shell media, has been used in decorative applications, such as terrazzo style flooring, pavers, and countertops. The ground shells can also create textured and nonslip surfaces and clean molds. Eco-Shell is available in more than 30 standard sizes, from fine (.25mm) to coarse (4.75mm), and custom sizes. Eco-Shell. 530-824-8794. www.ecoshell.com