The “Bohus County Quarrying Industry Cooperative”, now owned by Benders, was founded in 1926. Focusing on manual craftsmanship, the cooperative soon established itself as a dominant player in the quarrying industry in the Bohuslän region of Sweden. Rock has always demanded skilled and respectful handling to give its very best. Even today, it is the granite that tells the mason where to set his or her chisel.
In the summer of 1926, Sweden experienced an unparalleled heatwave that pushed it to the top of Europe’s temperature league. Rumours were beginning to circulate that, under the Latin name Volvo, SKF was going to start an automobile factory in Hisingen. Walking towards the tiny hut at the Hovenäset quarry, stonemason Henning Carlsson probably thought the name was a little pretentious. However, perhaps he was also happy that 1926 was likely to have two reasons for entering the history books.
Henning stepped into the small office. Ten minutes later, he re-emerged, wiping his forehead with his handkerchief, looking down at the piece of paper in his hand. “Share Certificate in the Bohus County Quarrying Industry Cooperative Joint Stock Society” – the words imposed obligations. Nonetheless, joy and relief coursed through his body. “This is the start,” he thought, full of new-found energy, steering his steps towards the stone quarry to meet his prospective fellow shareholders.
Bohus Malmön, where one of Sweden’s first major stone cutting operations started as early as 1842, had become an epicentre of the country’s quarrying industry. Henning and his colleagues had long worked for the large quarry companies that had set up in northern Bohuslän. In the first decades of the 20th century, the rapid growth of the companies in this area was due to good stone reserves and, not least, the unique composition, cleavability and workability of Bohus granite. Furthermore, the natural reserves were right on the coast, a great advantage for export. The demand seemed never to wane. Attracted by the employment opportunities, workers streamed here from all around the country.
Community from chaos
After decades of a thriving economy, the First World War hit hard. The quarrying industry, which was export-dependent, was totally crippled. When the war finished, its reverberations led to chaos in the form of economic peaks and troughs. The quarry companies hired and fired heedlessly. Strikes, redundancies and conflicts followed hot upon the heels of each other. Finally, the employees had had enough. Henning and his forceful fellow stonemasons decided to start up on their own. However, ownership had to be joint and operations had to be run collectively.
The cooperative was born at the start of August 1926 and soon made a name as a competent, fit and stable supplier of Bohus granite. New branches of the cooperative grew along the coast and the established companies could no longer turn a blind eye to the Hovenäset workers’ cooperative. Indeed, this cooperative was to eventually outlive almost all the quarry companies.
From 1926 to the end of the 1940s, stone cutting was carried out profitably using simple mechanical aids in small quarries. The 50s and 60s were a period of strong technological development. This brought, amongst other things, the revolutionary jet burning method from the USA. The second half of the 90s saw the next major upgrading. Almost SEK 60 million was invested in new machinery, product development, etc.
New production units were acquired in line with growth in profits. The purchase of Ävja quarry in 1965 brought a manifold increase to extraction possibilities. Näsinge was incorporated in 1986 and the addition of Skärholmen in 1998 gave the cooperative ultra-high precision and quality in refining. The Rabbalshede factory was bought in 2007 and added both production capacity and intellectual capital. A subsidiary, Bohusgranit AB, was started as yet another addition to the cooperative and was put in charge of the latter’s consumer-market operations.
Since summer 2012, Bohusgranit AB has been part of the family-owned Benders corporation. This is Sweden’s leading manufacturer of landscaping and roofing products. It has a wide network of retailers throughout the Nordic countries. All Benders’ operations are characterised by quality consciousness, receptiveness to customer wishes and a long-term approach to business – principles that, throughout the years, have guided the quarrying industry in Bohuslän.
It will soon be 90 years since Henning and his fellow shareholders had the idea of a jointly owned quarrying operation. Notwithstanding technological development, investment, product development and changes in ownership, the real know-how still sits in the hands of the stonemasons. What each piece of stone is to become is only determined when experienced and sensitive hands run over newly split surfaces and sense where the stone has decided that the chisel should be set. It has always been so.