Gunther Buerman, Joe Bucci, and Neil Cohen
American Rock Salt Company
In 1994, after more than 100 years of successful operation, the salt mine in Retsof in Livingston County started to flood after part of it collapsed. The mine operators, Akzo-Nobel made extensive efforts to stem the flooding, but in the end abandoned the mine, leaving 275 miners out of work or working for much lower wages. The mine closure also impacted approximately 800 truckers who transported salt to municipalities around the state. In 1996, Joe Bucci, a local real estate broker who had been connected to Akzo-Nobel, and Rochester attorney Gunther Buerman contacted Charles (Bud) Van Arsdale at the SBDC to talk about the possibility of salvaging the operation. They were primarily concerned about the hundreds of workers left without jobs when the mine closed. Van Arsdale, worked with them and Manhattan investment banker Neil Cohen to assemble financing for the purchase and development of the Hampton Corners site.
In January 1997, after many meetings, a new company called American Rock Salt was organized. The project received strong state and local support in the form of financial enhancements and NYS economic development assistance.
After countless meetings and months of planning and negotiation, a new mine was started in November 1998. Crews began working 24 hours a day, seven days a week and construction began on a three-mile railroad spur to carry rock salt to depots around the northeast. This was the country’s first new salt mine in 40 years.The economic impact for the project was much larger than any other SBDC project, and in fact once the new company was launched, it was too big to continue as an SBDC client. The funding totaled nearly $135 million, 275 jobs were created, and re-opening the mine impacted 900 trucking jobs. American Rock Salt, one of the largest and most efficient salt-producing facilities in the US is the second largest taxpayer in the county. The mile can produce approximately 10 % of current US consumption of rock salt, more than 50% of the average annual salt requirement of NYS. American Rock Salt saves NYS approximately $25 million per year ($10 per ton) in transportation costs. It is estimated that the company will be able to mine 3 million tons of salt a year for the next 80 years.