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L&S hoping to add South Africa to its plant sites

July 01, 1998

photo: MIKE CRUPI / staff photographer

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African Mayor visits L&S StoneBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - L&S Stone is hoping to extend its business outside U.S. borders.

The company each day makes tons of precast stone veneer products for the building and landscaping industries at its plants in Greencastle, Chambersburg, Pa., and North Carolina. Business is growing so fast at L&S that a new plant will be built in Florida and, if things go well after a visit Wednesday by the mayor of Durban, South Africa, the company will build a plant there, said Eugene Strite, president of L&S.

Mayor Obed Thembinkoski Mlaba and four South African officials made Franklin County, Pa., the first stop on a seven-day U.S. tour that includes a visit today with Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry. He also will visit Chicago and Tulsa, Okla.

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Mlaba met Strite three weeks ago while Strite was on a missionary visit to South Africa.

Strite, 44, of Chambersburg, is an ordained minister. In 1994 he founded Sent Forth Ministries to preach and do good works in Third World countries. Since then he and his volunteers have been to 10 countries.

Mlaba said the home-building industry in South Africa is booming. In Durban, a city of 3 million, about 10,000 new homes are built a year. That is expected to grow to 15,000, he said.

Building materials are limited to brick and mortar, he said. Decorative precast stone products like those made by L&S Stone "would cut building costs and add value and variety to the homes," Mlaba said.

Durban, on the east coast of South Africa, is one of the continent's major seaports.

"We are serious about building a plant there," Strite said.

Charles Baer, chief operating officer for L&S Stone, said the weight of concrete products makes shipping expensive. "That's why we want plants closer to our markets," he said.

L&S started in 1969 in Chambersburg. Today it has more than 100 employees and sells mainly wholesale through dealers and to giant chain stores such as Lowe's and Home Depot, Baer said.

The products are hand-made veneer stone look-a-likes. The manufacturing process is simple, but labor-intensive.

Mortar is colored to represent the colors of real stones - native limestone, quartz, granite and smooth, rounded river rocks. It is then poured into latex molds which have been molded from real rocks.

The products are decorative and not designed as structural materials.

The company's business is split evenly between residential and commercial construction, Baer said.

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