American Artstone grows stronger

American Artstone employees work on the wood they use to mold concrete. Owner Nick Meyer said one goal he’d like to accomplish in 2024 is filling long-time vacant positions to create a better workload balance.

NEW ULM — For American Artstone, 2023 was a year of growth and constriction according to the company’s president Nick Meyer.

“Very busy,” he said. “We’ve seen continued growth in our market. Construction seems to be at a pretty decent pace. [We’ve been] reaping those benefits. Our biggest hurdle right now is just workforce, being able to bring new people into the community to fill positions we’ve had open for anywhere from six months to a year.”

American Artstone specializes in making exterior facades for buildings in commercial markets. While many believe the stone in Artstone refers to something along the lines of quarry, granite, or marble, Meyer said what they do differs from that.

“What we produce is a concrete product that mimics natural stone,” he said. “The way we produce that is by bringing in specialty rock sands and pigments to make it appear like natural stone. Then we build molds, pour that concrete in, and that product is shipped to the project site. A subcontracted company will come in and install it.”

Meyer said the company’s work can be seen all over town. This includes the seating blocks in German Park, the signage in front of Bank Midwest, and the exterior of St. Paul’s Lutheran School. He said there is a wide array of what American Artstone can provide.

Recently installed, this cement batcher gives American Artstone greater control over their concrete mixes. Where their previous mixer used manual controls, this one is controlled via computer for more precise measurements.

“We can do a lot of different things with our products from landscaping, hardscaping, buildings, custom one-off decorative pieces,” Meyer said. “The easiest way to see is through pictures. You start looking at exactly what we do, it’s kind of endless.”

Meyer said some major projects they worked on in 2023 include an art installation in front of Iowa State University’s Jack Trice Stadium and the entire exterior facade at the University of St. Thomas’s Schoenecker Center. He said the Schoenecker project was particularly expansive, using 1.145 million pounds of concrete from 42 semi-loads.

One change American Artstone has already made for 2024 is their new concrete batcher, which they use to mix and form their concrete. Installed the first week of February, Meyer said it has several improvements over their old batcher.

“We’ve gotten more up-to-date computer-driven software that helps us with batching inventories as well as consistency of our concrete,” he said. “We’re able to streamline the process of each individual concrete mix so we’re faster. The software guides us as far as our weights, water, and ratios to keep track of all those data points for Quality Control programs.”

Meyer said the biggest job they’re working on currently is the new Winona Archdiocese Prayer Center in Rochester. This job will see 135,000 pounds of concrete in 390 pieces, which he said will be very ornate, custom, artistic pieces.

This mold has been created for the Winona Archdiocese Prayer Center Project in Rochester, currently American Artstone's biggest project. Once the mold is completed, concrete is poured into it to create their solid product.

With the weather staying generally warm, Meyer believes the construction season could start early and give American Artstone a big boost. Though the season usually doesn’t start until April, he said a rush on deliveries could come as soon as March.

Meyer said the biggest goal for American Artstone in 2024 is filling vacant positions to take some of the workload off current employees. He said they currently have 20 employees and need 23 to have ideal workload balances.


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