A small guard’s booth and a simple wood sign mark the entrance to the CertainTeed gypsum board plant off Broadway in Buchanan.
Just down a winding road beyond the gate lies the sprawling 40-acre site along the Hudson River, home to a plant that runs 24/7, producing enough drywall to build 250 houses every day.
“We provide building materials to make peoples’ houses and make dreams come true,” said Paul Woolweaver, Buchanan plant manager.
The massive operation, resting just south of the former Indian Point nuclear plant, employs 120 workers. Seventy members of Teamsters Local #456 and 25 members of Operating Engineers Local 30 keep the plant humming.
The raw gypsum stone used to make the drywall is mined in Spain and travels by ocean freight, sailing up the Hudson River to be unloaded. The mountain of gypsum towers nearly 40 feet high. Over 45,000 tons are used annually.
The plant runs the length of 12 football fields. The gypsum is “crushed and cooked” and turned into stucco, inserted into paper, and runs down the long conveyor belts while it cures and dries.
The boards are then cut to standard sizes and bundled up for daily shipment on a fleet of flatbed trucks that run constantly to and from the plant.
As the only operating gypsum plant in New York, CertainTeed enjoys a huge competitive advantage on delivery. Over 40 percent of the drywall goes into New York City, with three quarters of the total in the tri-state region.
“Customer service is a priority for us,” Woolweaver said. “We deliver a lot of same-day orders into New York City and provide customized sizes of drywall when that’s what our customer wants.”
Many of those workers in Buchanan have decades of service to the company, supporting their families with good-paying jobs.
Warehouse Manager Luis Coluccio is approaching his 35th year working at the Buchanan plant.
“We have a very good team here. I started here in 1987 and one thing that always kept me working at this plant is the people. It’s a very good place to work,” said Coluccio, who resides in Verplanck.
Corporate citizenship and preserving the environment are guiding principles that flow through the company, starting with the parent Saint-Gobain in Paris.
Locally, CertainTeed in Buchanan is a Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce member and contributes to many local events, including the Town of Cortlandt’s Annual Summer Concert and Movie Series and the Annual Family Fun Day.
The company supports golf outings for HOPE for Youth Foundation, Peekskill Rotary Club, Rotary Club of Cortlandt Manor, and Buchanan and Verplanck Fire Departments.
After Sept. 11, the company provided drywall at no cost to build structures on the site of the fallen Twin Towers. Employees volunteered their time to make deliveries and help with the work.
A 2.4 megawatt solar panel array on the plant’s roof produces carbon-free energy for the community through the grid. The company recently installed energy-efficient grinding control technology, cutting the plant’s energy consumption by nearly 700,000 kWh per year, and also reducing the plant’s greenhouse gas emissions.
“Think of it as a light dimmer in a family’s home,” said Scott Statler, the plant’s Corporate Strategic Capital Manager and a 25-year veteran in the Buchanan plant. “We reduce the speed of the grind when it’s not required to run at peak, but maintain the same output with less energy.”
Ownership has changed hands several times since the plant was opened by Georgia Pacific in 1968. Over the 52-year history of operation in Buchanan, the company has become a major part of the local business community and a leading employer in the town of Cortlandt.
Lafarge acquired the plant from Georgia Pacific in 1996 and completed a major expansion in 2005-2006. Four years later the plant was converted to synthetic gypsum.
In 2013 Lafarge’s U.S. gypsum plants were sold and became Continental Building Products. Seven years later, the plant was acquired by CertainTeed Gypsum, its current owner. Publicly-traded parent company Saint-Gobain, headquartered in Paris, France, reported worldwide sales of 44.2 billion euros in 2021. The company employs 166,000 employees in 76 countries.
Like many companies, CertainTeed finds recruiting a challenge in a tight labor market. Woolweaver brought Hendrick Hudson High School teachers on a tour and hopes to have students see the operation to think about joining the company someday.
The current generation of new workers have big plans for their careers at this stable company, with a promising future. “We don’t lose out on employees for wages,” Woolweaver said. Training and promoting from within is a priority.
“I like working here because I’m the go-to guy,” said Francisco Landor, a Production Utility Operator and five-year employee. “I get to help everybody out and learn all the jobs.
“For me, the future is supervisor, then manager, then plant manager, to CEO,” Landor said.
Meet Your Industrious Neighbor
350 Broadway, Buchanan, NY 10511
Plant Manager: Paul Woolweaver
Hiring in production, operations and engineering
Teamsters Local #456
Operating Engineers Local 30
Plant produces enough drywall for 1,500 houses every week
Built in 1968
Parent Company: Saint-Gobain, Paris, France
Parent annual sales: 44.2 billion euros (2021)
Ticker symbol: SGO.PA
Jim Roberts is a freelance business reporter based in Peekskill.