Interview with Mr. Christopher De Allie, Supervisor of Bestcrete in Grenada.
Mr. De Allie, you have been the President of the Grenada Chamber Industry and Commerce. You are the representative of the business community in the Senate. You were part of an initiative to bring blocks from Trinidad. How does that relate in terms of supporting local and promoting CARICOM?
The good thing about this is that our blocks lend to a quality that does not exist in the local market; so the advantage for the local market is that it pushes them to come up to our quality and match us on that basis. Therefore, it’s not a disadvantage but rather an advantage. And, as you know, within CARICOM and within the region, once it’s manufactured within the region, you could move things as freely as you want.
It’s similar to us in Sissons Paint; when we have to compete, we’re competing with Sherwin Williams, an international brand, and they’re competing with us. Our local products have to be able to match international standards, from quality to price. So, it’s the same thing with the blocks.
Recently, some contractors were complaining that they couldn’t find certain sizes of building blocks. How would the establishment of this facility help save cost, one, by ensuring that the project continues? And, two, I notice the product is superior in quality in terms of its presentation. How would that help in terms of paint?
Well, let me answer you this way. ANSA McAL has the largest block-making facility in the region and, probably, in this western hemisphere. Our plant can do in excess of 20,000 blocks an hour and the specifications – from block to block – will be the same; the consistency will be the same; the entire process is automated and mechanized. So when we run clay blocks, for example, we set the oven at 2,000 degrees. It comes in on one side wet and it comes out on the other side dry; so, we don’t have to depend on weather conditions; on whether the sun shines today or it shines tomorrow. We have an oven almost a mile long and when the block goes in, it comes out at the next end and the clay block is ready to go.
You mentioned that your products will be more costly at a time when people are gabbling for funds. How would they save eventually?
Well, I’m not sure we’re grabbling for funds. But, yes, ours cost a little more. However, we try to offset that by saying that you have a lighter block; you have a stronger block, and in terms of the presentation and how the block looks, it’s a much better finish. So, even though you might pay a few cents more, you have opportunities to save in terms of loading on your beams, the kind of steel you use in the beams; as well as when you come to plaster the block, when you could use a thinner layer of plaster than normal, so that it would adhere and you could get a much easier finish. And there are other advantages as well. So, even though our price would be a little bit more, we think that overall, when you go with our block, the consumer and the homeowner would benefit more in the longer term.
Your plant could do 20,000 blocks in an hour. You have a market of 1.5 million or so in Trinidad and you are gagging the region. Can you guarantee supply for Grenada?
Of course! This is the first of 500 palettes that we have coming up and by the middle of December, we have another 1,000 palettes coming. In that December shipment are all the various sizes. So, we’re sure that when we bring in the next thousand palettes, we’ll have enough blocks to hold us for at least 3 to 4 months, depending on customer uptake.
How do you respond to those who would say, when you bring in blocks from Trinidad, you’re trying to put the local man out of business?
The local man will only go out of business if he can’t match. Other than that, the local man will stay in business. In any case, we will be delivering island-wide; but, at the same time, if a man wants 50 blocks and he is in Sauteurs and there is a blocks maker in Sauteurs, you don’t expect him to come down here to St George’s for 50 blocks.
Yes, if he wants best-priced blocks.
Right. If he wants a particular type of block he would come; but if not, he will go to the man right in Sauteurs that’s producing blocks. What he has to guard against and to ensure, is that the blocks that he is taking meet the standards that are mandated locally.
You just said to me you’re not delivering blocks below a certain quota. What’s that quota?
No, no, no, I’m delivering blocks.
You said if a man wants 50, you’ll tell him buy in Sauteurs. What’s your minimum quota for delivery?
No, we don’t have a minimum quota. I didn’t tell him buy in Sauteurs. I said, he may think that to come down to St George’s to get 50 blocks may not make sense to him; and he may be willing to purchase it if he can get it from the man right there in Sauteurs. So there are those options.
I don’t think local block makers will be totally out of business. Those who wouldn’t make it in the business are those who would have failed anyway.
You’ve always been innovative, you’ve always been creative; you’ve always advocated for productivity, you’re always innovative for new products in paint. What joy comes to you having been able to achieve this?
The synergy between blocks and paint is almost orgasmic; in the sense that, you start with me with blocks and I’m giving you the best in terms of your foundation with your house. Then, you come back to me to finish the job with the paint and the décor on the inside. So that is almost a link that is unbreakable.
What is this facility doing to the construction industry right now?
This facility will ensure consistency of supply and a quality that is unmatched. Already, I think you heard it mentioned, we have one of the larger contractors in Grenada taking products from us. As a matter of fact, we have an order of 4,000 6-inch going out to that particular customer. Altogether, we’ve already delivered about 60,000 blocks to projects in Grenada and delivery continues.
What is your real expectation for this project?
Our expectation, our target for 2018, is that we could hit a million plus blocks.
But your focus has been on partnership and on service.
That just strengthens it.
Thank you sir.