With the purchase of Cochran’s Inc. of Barre last August, a monument retailer that produces granite memorials and gravestones and sells cutters and monumental design software, Anand Anandan and his wife Lakshmi Anandan now own six granite operations in Central Vermont: Global Values Inc., Northern Mausoleum Services, Houle Brothers Granite, and Cochran Inc. in Barre and Montpelier Granite Works and Northeast Granite in Montpelier.
Global Values, Inc. is an Illinois-based corporation with operations in Vermont and Georgia. The company is in the business of importing, etching and carving granite monuments and memorials. Global Values sells granite imported from China and India as well as granite from Vermont and Georgia. The company also manufactures mausoleums and columbariums.
Anand opened his first Vermont business in 2003 with the purchase of the financially troubled International Stone Products. In 2015 Global Values bought Northern Mausoleum and Houle Brothers Granite. In 2017 he bought Montpelier Granite Works. He expanded his company to Vermont because of the availability of high-quality stone and Barre’s highly skilled workforce.
“In all the acquisitions we retained all the employees. And the owners remain as managers of key areas of Global Values. All the acquisitions are done by Global Values and are integrated as one company,” he said.
“Barre has the best workmanship in the world as far as manufacturing of granite monuments goes. Being an absentee owner I have lot of faith in Barre workmanship. I have traveled to China, India and Brazil and many other countries’ stone factories including Germany and Italy. Barre’s workforce is second to none. That is why I will continue to invest in manufacturing here.”
With the purchase of Cochran Inc., Anand’s Vermont workforce is now 56 workers and he plans to add four more employes. The total workforce for the company nationwide is 110 full-time employees.
The past year has been challenging for the granite industry, Anand said. One of the biggest problems for his company, which is the largest importer in the country of granite from China, is the 25% tariff on Chinese granite which was imposed Sept. 1, 2019. Before the tariff his import business was 75% of his sales but is now closer to 50%. In addition, China has closed several quarries due to pollution issues, including the quarry that produces Imperial Pink granite, a stone very popular for gravestones.
“Because of the China tariff and increased customs duty from India, our imports product sales have been significantly down. But we are gaining more business on the domestic manufacturing side. So we have started manufacturing in Elberton, Georgia also. We are trying to transition from a company selling mostly imports to a company selling mostly domestic.”
Finding qualified employees is also an issue. One of the main reasons he bought Cochran’s Inc. is because that company runs the Cochran School of Rock, an eight-week course entitled “Introduction to Basic Monumental Drafting.” At the completion of the course students meet the union standards of an apprentice-level monuments draftsman.
“It’s very difficult to find people to do this work,” he said.
Anand came to the U.S. as software engineer.
“I was working as director of technology for a big financial services company. In 2013, I became full-time with Global Values. Until then it was my part-time venture. But my wife has been full-time from 2004.”
Anand said the stone carving business is the main focus for Global Values, but the company also has a software development operation for the stone business.
The biggest difference between operating a granite business in Georgia and Vermont is there are no unions in Georgia, Anand said.
“Georgia has no unions. But Barre compensates by its experienced stable and reliable workforce and good availability of raw materials. Georgia grey availability is quite challenging and it is shrinking every year. In 2004, I started hiring union employees for sandblast operations. It was very successful and we were well known for the quality of our work. That gave us the confidence to become a full -fledged manufacturer in 2015, able to offer excellent quality workmanship on all the beautiful granite available around the world.”
Anand was born in Kancheepuram, India, a temple town, and grew up in Chennai, India. The Kancheepuram temple was built from 685-705 AD. “It was probably world’s first large-scale stone temple that was built with all granite foundations,” he said.
Lakshmi was born in Trichy, India. She has a Masters in Computer Applications. She runs the operational aspects of Global Values Inc. including payroll, software systems, accounts payable and receivables management. She created the first online order tracking system in the monument industry in 2004.
“Together we have created many software systems we use to manage our business efficiently,” Anand said. The biggest change since he started Global Values is automation. The polisher use, to take three workers to operate but now the operation is run by computer.
“Our automatic polishers can run round the clock, even when no one is here. Our wire saws run twenty-four seven. We have five axes CNC (computer numerical control) machines which can run unattended and can do intricate jobs. We are investing in state-of-art software to operate at a higher level of efficiency,” he said.
Anand moved to the U.S. in 1994. From 1994 to 2011 he worked in software product development. He started Global Values, Inc. in 1999 as a side business in Elk Grove, Illinois. In 2002 he moved the operation to St. Cloud Minnesota and then to Elberton, Georgia in 2002.
“Many of my competitors have invested in manufacturing overseas. But I have made all my investments in the U.S. and especially in Barre,” he said.
The Barre granite industry generates $100 million in annual revenues, according to Doug Grahn, executive director of the Barre Granite Association.