P&Q Profile: Buzzi Unicem’s Van Furgeson

By |  October 2, 2019


Van Furgeson is celebrating his 40th year in the quarry business in 2019, and he’s been with Buzzi Unicem for the last five years. Furgeson currently oversees the company’s quarry activities in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, from the budget and maintenance to stripping and environmental planning. P&Q caught up with Furgeson this summer to hear about his latest adventures in Missouri.

Forty years in the aggregate industry is a long time. What is it about the industry that you love?

I’m outside every day. When I got out of school, the first thing I thought I needed to do was go to downtown Indianapolis and wear a suit and tie. I lasted 30 days doing that. I had been working in sand and gravel operations in the summers, and I haven’t looked back since.

The people are always interesting – a challenge, too. People are always a challenge when you have to manage them. But everything’s different all the time. I get to make little rocks out of big rocks, and I get to blow them up.

You mentioned previously that your quarry in Cape Girardeau faced some flooding issues related to the Mississippi River earlier this year. What can you tell us about it?

In the quarry here, we have three 800-hp pumps. We can pump 11,000 gallons per minute. Once the water surpasses the flood stage, which is 32 ft. here, [the river] starts to come in – and then we can’t stop it. We tried to slow it down by putting in some curtains, but it still came in faster than we can handle.

We have to pump 24 hours, seven days a week. It doesn’t stop until the river drops down below 32 ft. When she rears her ugly head, you better be ready.

Was 2019 the worst flooding you’ve experienced in your time at Cape Girardeau?

Furgeson is celebrating his 40th year in the quarry business in 2019. Photo courtesy of Van Furgeson

Van Furgeson is celebrating his 40th year in the quarry business in 2019. Photo courtesy of Van Furgeson

It’s not the worst of the five years. It’s actually been the best of the five.

In 2011, everything – including the primary – went under water. We’re sitting up 150 ft. above [the river] and it got us. It looked like a whitewater river coming in.

It gets to a point where you start to let her do it, and when it slows down and stops then we go after it.

Putting the flooding aside, how has the 2019 production season been for you?

We’re having a good year. We’re basically sold out. I do almost 2 million tpy here. We’ve got a railyard that holds 450 railcars, and we do barges. We load out barges and railcars 24/7, 365 days a year.

Are you exploring any equipment or plant upgrades at the moment?

Since I’ve been here, we’ve gotten Cat 992Ks – they only make one bigger. I’ve gotten a new 777G haul truck and just ordered my second one. I ordered another 988K for the plants, and we’re looking at a new Cat excavator – about the 375 size.

What are one or two challenges Buzzi Unicem is facing at the moment?

We’re always trying to get better at everything we do. Safety comes first.

We’re constantly trying to make safety better. We include all of our guys here in weekly safety meetings. Afterward, we ask every individual if they would like to share anything. When you get guys to participate, then you get great ideas and great results.

I have some pretty good guys here. There are a lot of challenges keeping equipment running with the weather and how it keeps changing on us. Yesterday (Sept. 4), we had a heat index out of the clear blue of 105. It gets rather humid down here in southeast Missouri.

Do you plan to attend ConExpo-Con/Agg next year?

I have been there in the past. I don’t know if I’m going to have a chance to get away this time. I used to attend about every other one, spending three days there. I always enjoyed it. If anybody’s never been, they’d be silly not to go at least once.


BEST ADVICE RECEIVED – Patience goes a long way

FIRST JOB – Mud picker. If you can survive that, you can do anything

SPORTS – Played college football as a wide receiver. Also play golf today

HOBBIES – Our four dogs, working out and swimming in our in-ground pool

LAST BOOK – “The Company: A Novel of the CIA” by Robert Littell

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