OMYA's Assets Are Global
By BRUCE EDWARDS Herald Staff
PROCTOR - The rail cars with the blue OMYA logo are a familiar sight passing through Rutland County as they haul slurry from the company's calcium carbonate plant in Florence to destinations around the country.
In fact, for a company that goes to great lengths to avoid publicity, it is the most visible sign of the company's presence.
In the U.S., CMYA Inc is one of five IJ.S. companies that operate under the banner of Pluess-Staufer Industries Inc, the U.S. subsidiary of the Pluess-Staufer AG of Oftringen, Switzerland.
In addition to OMYA, the other U S holdings include Vermont Talc Co. Chester, Southeast Carbonates, Proctor; Pluess-Staufer of California (limestone) Lucerne Valley, Calif.; and Pluess-Staufer International, (sales), Stamford, Connecticut.
In Vermont, Pluess-Staufer and its subsidiaries are known to own a total
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of at least 5,674 acres in Middlebury, Pittsford, Salisbury; Proctor Brandon, Wallingford, Danby and Chester
Together the real estate, personal property and mineral rights have an assessed value in excess of $100 million. Last year the company paid $1.77 million in real estate and personal property taxes.
Pittsford is the biggest beneficiary of Pluess-Staufer's presence. The $1.62 million in taxes paid by OMYA accounts for about one-third of the town's tax revenues, according to the town clerk's office.
The company's calcium carbonate plant, associated buildings and quarry in the village of Florence have an assessed value of $40.5 million. Business equipment is assessed at $38.5 million. Tack on the power division plant at $1.6 million and another $3.5 million in equipment, and the assessed value of all the company's property in Pittsford totals $84.27 million.
In South Wallingford, the company pays $18,800 a year in taxes on 539 acres. The limestone quarry there is mined by a subcontractor, Shelburne Limestone Corp.
Proctor, home of the company's U.S. corporate headquarters, also remains heavily dependent on Pluess-Staufer to fill its coffers.
Although the company's tax contributions have shrunk in recent years since it closed the Vermont Marble Co., Pluess-Staufer remains the major contributor to the town's tax base. Last year, the company paid the town $346,588 in taxes on real estate and personal property with an assessed value of $10.9 million.
The company owns 944 acres in Proctor; plus several buildings and the Vermont Marble Power Division, which supplies electricity to the town.
Founded in 1884 by Gottfried Pluess and his wife Emma Staufer (who together invented an easier method of making window putty), the Swiss parent company is a major producer and distributor of a variety of mineral and chemical products. Its quarries and calcium carbonate plants stretch around the globe from Florence (Vt.) to Bangkok.
It has alliances and partnerships with a number of companies including chemical giant, Hoechst AG of Germany. In total, Pluess-Staufer's annual revenues are conservatively estimated at $1.4 billion. Worldwide employment stands at 6,438, including 681 employees in Switzerland.
In Vermont, the company is believed to employ close to 200 people. In addition, subcontractors like Shelburne Limestone Corp. and L.H. Carter trucking employ additional workers.
For the last 57 years, the company has been owned by Max H. Schachenmann and his family. From time to time, the publicity-shy Schachenmann has surfaced on several lists that track the world's wealthiest individuals.
Various reasons have been put forward over the years by employees and others familiar with the multi-national company for its obsession with secrecy. The explanations run the gamut from the theory that it's the way the Swiss do business - and the less the competition knows about the company the better - to a fear that key company officials could be targeted for kidnapping by international terrorists.
One thing is certain - that philosophy has been handed down through the corporation by the 83-year-old Schachenmann, who took over the company when his father died in 1940.
Asked recently about the company's reason for its stealth-like image, a high-ranking OMYA official in Europe responded by quoting Schachenmann: "If you want to live happy, live hidden."