Fairmount Santrol History: Success through Commitment to People, Planet, and Prosperity

The Early Years

The development of Fairmount Santrol into an innovative industry leader capable of supplying many of the world’s biggest industries started with small beginnings. In 1978, Bill Conway, founder of Fairmount Minerals, was searching for a company to purchase when he came across Walter C. Best, Inc., a small silica sand producer located in Chardon, Ohio.

Conway’s extensive background in mining made purchasing the northeast Ohio sand mining operation, which was renamed Best Sand, a logical fit that would set the foundation for what would become Fairmount Minerals.

A Critical Entry into the Oil and Gas Market

In 1980-81, Conway recognized the opportunities in supplying fracturing sand to Halliburton Services, a leading service provider to the oil and gas market. That set the stage for further growth and cemented the company’s presence in the oil and gas market, which now accounts for a significant percentage of Fairmount Santrol’s business.

A Strong Partnership

In 1984, Conway expanded his operation with the acquisition of two new sand businesses—one in Geauga County, Ohio, and the other in Wedron, Illinois (Wedron Silica). Conway partnered with Chuck Fowler, an industrial sand veteran and president of sand operations at Martin Marietta Corp., to purchase Wedron Silica. 

Recognizing the strength of the partnership and market opportunity, Conway and Fowler merged Wedron Silica and Best Sand to form Fairmount Minerals in 1986.

“We were very complementary in business philosophy, and also in the understanding of what our responsibilities were to the communities in which we operated,” said Conway about his partnership with Fowler, who would later go on to become chief executive officer of Fairmount Minerals.

Further Growth and Innovation Through Acquisition of Technisand and Santrol

One of the biggest milestones came in 1991 when Fairmount purchased Technisand Inc. and Santrol from British Industrial Sand, along with its sand-coating technologies. The acquired technology enabled Fairmount to coat sand with resin for added benefits and additional performance.

Beginning in 1995, the Board began discussing a possible sale of company stock. In early 1996, a 50 percent share of Fairmount Minerals was sold to Kirtland Capital Partners II. In 2004, Fairmount was able to buy the shares back and create a predominantly employee-owned organization.

“The opportunities of being able to make some strategic acquisitions and the opportunity of getting our people involved in our internal growth have been two major milestones that have generated the kind of growth that we’ve had,” said Fowler.

Sustainability Charts a Path for a Strong Future

As it has since 2005, Fairmount Santrol fully embraces the concepts of Sustainable Development and Appreciative Inquiry. This enables Fairmount Santrol to dream and design a collective future grounded in a shared commitment to People, Planet, and Prosperity – the three pillars of sustainability.

“Our strength as a business is inherently linked to our sustainability strategy,” said Fowler. “Fairmount Santrol’s ability to proactively manage social and environmental risks and extract value from sustainability opportunities helped to position our organization as an attractive investment.”

Acquisition by American Securities Capital Partners Enables an Even Brighter Future

In August 2010, Fairmount Minerals partnered with American Securities Capital Partners, which acquired 51 percent of the company stock. The partnership met the liquidity needs of Fairmount shareholders, including the company’s employee stock bonus plan. Just as important, it has enabled structural efficiencies, technical innovation, and acquisitions that will continue to allow Fairmount Santrol to grow in new and even more sustainable ways.

Sustaining Success

From a financial standpoint, Fairmount Santrol has reaped the benefits of having an empowered team, cutting-edge technology, and an engaged culture. Fairmount Santrol’s growth strategy involves both internal investment in its facilities and worldwide distribution network to support global markets as well as continued innovation with its resin and coating capabilities.

While the company has continued to grow in sales and profitability year after year, Conway says that long-term success requires a continued focus on adding quality people who believe and relate to the company’s values, culture, and motto, “Do good. Do well.”