Las Vegas Review-Journal: Las Vegas Rock gets help from program to expand

By Chris Sieroty
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
Posted: May 4, 2012 | 2:07 a.m.

When Chris Schulte and Steve Wickman went looking for a $1.5 million loan to help finance their manufacturing company’s new fabrication plant and equipment, they knew it would be hard.

But they were confident Las Vegas Rock Inc.’s work, financial results and reputation were good enough to attract the money they needed to expand their facilities in Jean.

After being turned down by larger banks, the company turned to Meadows Bank, a small business bank with a single location in Las Vegas and a knack for working with companies looking for government guaranteed loans.

The privately held company was able to secure a $1.5 million loan, guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development. Wickman said the company was able to cover the additional $4 million cost to build the 45,000-square-foot plant.

“Without the guarantee, it’s hard to get the funding we needed,” Wickman said.

As a result of the loan, Las Vegas Rock purchased a state-of-the-art, high-speed stone-cutting machine, which has let the company enhance product quality and amplify production tenfold.

Las Vegas Rock, which mines its unique multicolored metaquartzite at the 920-acre Rainbow Quarry near Goodsprings, produces dozens of products, including stone tile and thin veneer for indoor and outdoor flooring and wall facings. It also produces crushed rock for glass and concrete companies.

Schulte, president of Las Vegas Rock, said the company has done stonework for The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Aria and the Golden Gate expansion.

On Wednesday, Schulte was busy with the last shipment of stone for decorative wall coverings or flooring at the Maryland Live Casino in Arundel Hill, Md.

Founded in 1998 by Wickman and Mike Kiddy, the company long focused on its $70 million-a-year landscaping business. But with the recession, Las Vegas Rock had to expand its facilities and its product offerings, not an easy task for a manufacturing company in a small town some 30 miles south of Las Vegas.

Wickman said the loan guarantee provided by the federal Rural Development program allowed Las Vegas Rock to emerge from the recession a stronger company financially.

Sarah Adler, state director of the USDA program, got her first look Wednesday at the new plant her agency helped finance.

“I’m here to see that beautiful building because I financed it,” Adler said.

Adler said her agency’s mission was to help “sustain rural communities” by supporting the private sector through loan guarantees. She said the program targets projects such as hospitals, schools and others that have a multiplier effect and generate “secondary investment.”

“If you don’t have access to capital, you can’t do the job,” Adler said. “These loan guarantees give businesses the working capital they need so they can grow at their own pace.”

Adler’s office has already reached its $8 million limit in loan guarantees for the current fiscal year.

While Wickman knew Adler as an ardent supporter of rural communities, he said he didn’t know her connections would get him invited to lunch at the White House. In February, he was there as Nevada’s representative in a program recognizing manufacturing success in rural America. While the recognition was flattering, it was more important to get a chance to discuss issues facing manufacturers, he said.

“It wasn’t about Democrats and Republicans,” he said. “They generally wanted feedback on how they could help.”

Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at csieroty@review journal.com or 702-477-3893.

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