When you think about your business, hopefully you think not just about today, but also about tomorrow. You have invested a great deal, both physically and monetarily in building your business, and you want to make sure that it will be successful not just today but tomorrow as well. You have control over many aspects of your business and you plan accordingly. You invest in the future through smart expansion, you responsibly acquire new equipment and you build a solid customer base. Yet there is one area of your business over which you really have very little control, and that is labor. Yes, technically you have the ability to hire whomever you want and of course you would like to find the best person for the job. In today’s labor environment however, finding any employees, let alone skilled ones, can be challenging at best. Because of this and out of necessity, many employers are left with no choice but to hire whoever happens to show up inquiring about a job. I continually hear employers talk about the shortage of not only skilled labor but of labor in general; it is a worrisome trend that is only getting worse. In addition, even offering better pay does not seem to be curbing this trend. In many cases, even the offer of higher pay is not enough to entice the current labor force into staying with the job or for that matter, even wanting to work at all. I currently have the opportunity of sitting on the board for workforce development in Northeast Georgia. I can tell you that this labor issue is not unique to Elberton or to Georgia for that matter; this issue is a trend that is being seen and felt across the country. There are jobs available, good ones at that! However, it seems more often than not, they go unfilled or a new employee only stays with them for a short period of time because, well, it is too much work. There are a variety of reasons that today’s labor force is not embracing the working environment as has been done by generations before them. If I had to point to one thing, I would say that it is because our younger generations are not being required to work in the same manner that has been the norm for generations. Ask a youth of today to program a computer or sequence a video game and it is no problem. However, ask that same youth to read a tape measure or troubleshoot and correct an issue on the production line and more than likely, they will struggle. It’s not that they can’t do these tasks, it’s that most likely they have never had any exposure to these tasks. Employers need to understand that the workforce of today is capable but they will have to be taught. Therefore, more than ever, it is essential that your company have a training program to help develop the workforce of today. In this issue of our Graniteer, you will read about how the EGA is partnering with our local high school to address workforce development and to create new training programs. By doing this, EGA is ensuring that the future workforce of Elberton is being developed today.The Elberton Granite Association recently donated a MonuCad operating system to the Career, Technical, and Agriculture Education (CTAE) Department at Elbert County Comprehensive High School (ECCHS). This exciting development will create career opportunities to the students interested in learning CAD design. EGA member Quinn Floyd, of A.Q. Stone Design, personally delivered the software to the school. Students in the school’s “Applications in Granite Technology” classes will be learning this skill set with Quinn’s expertise. ECCHS will also continue partnering with granite businesses for tours and guest speakers in developing a seamless transition for students into the local economy.The Elberton Granite Association’s Executive Vice President, Chris Kubas, has stated that the EGA intends to help the future of the local granite industry by improving the technologies available to students in the local community. In demonstrating this commitment, the EGA made a new contribution from EGA to the Elbert County Comprehensive High School’s (ECCHS) Career, Technical, and Agriculture Education (CTAE) Department in the school’s Granite Lab. In addition to a brand new granite cutter for the students and teachers to use to advance their knowledge, ECCHS’ Broadcast/Video Production Instructor, Mr. Nicholas Beshiri, used his experience with various technologies to create three unique films capturing the process of the granite production industry. Before the film instructor received the job at ECCHS, he worked as a videographer and editor in Athens, GA. Mr. Beshiri was first inspired to participate in the project due to his idea of filming a documentary on the granite industry in Elberton as a thesis project for his Master’s Degree. He states, “After meeting with the EGA board to discuss the new monument design class at the high school and the donation of the cutter, Chris Kubas also expressed the need for some new videos for the granite museum as well as marketing videos.” When asked about his prior knowledge of granite production, Mr. Beshiri replied “I honestly did not have very much knowledge about Elberton or granite production when I first started. I had done research for my Master’s Thesis, but it was not very much and nothing can really beat seeing what goes on in the sheds first hand. Since filming, I feel as though I have a basic knowledge of how the industry works, but I still have a lot of things to learn.” As a student of the Broadcast/Video Production class, and after seeing these videos, I was in awe of the amazing footage the video projects contained. When questioned about capturing the videos, Mr. Beshiri replied, “There was a lot of planning that went into scheduling the filming dates, factoring in the hours available for each business, as well as my schedule and that of the EGA representative, Matthew Pruitt. Filming in the quarries was probably the most difficult task because we had to plan around their work schedule to get shots of certain techniques, like blasting. The videos were filmed using Sony PXW-X70 HD Camcorders and GoPro 4 cameras. We made use of a DJI Phantom drone to get certain shots of the quarries and inside of the shed at Eagle Granite.” After viewing these videos, it was obvious a good amount of time was put into each one. I asked Mr. Beshiri what some of the neatest things he learned after putting in the time to create these videos were, and his reply was this: “Honestly, I would have to say that I was in awe of the entire process in general. Normal members of the public have no idea the amount of time and skill it takes to create granite monuments as well as the number of people involved. Filming thesevideos has given me a new appreciation for the industry and the craftsmanship that goes into each product they produce”. Mr. Beshiri also shared how surprised he was by the number of people and companies involved in the granite production process. “Granite production is an industry that creates a huge amount of jobs for the community and many of them are not simply working in a granite shed.” While visiting the sheds and capturing the footage, Mr. Beshiri visited several different companies and quarries including Eagle Granite, Keystone Granite, Star Granite & Bronze, Jenson Etching and Glass Art Imaging. Since the new cutter was donated to the new monument design class at the high school, it led me to wonder if students of ECCHS’ Granite Department often find jobs in the granite industry following high school. After asking Mr. Beshiri if he saw any former students during his visits to the companies, he said, “I did see several former students working in various jobs in the industry, and many were students that I had coached in the past”. Considering these statistics, it continues to validate how the new equipment will be used to its utmost potential. This filming experience was also not wasted on Mr. Beshiri. He plans to use the knowledge and resources he gained through this project to enhance his teaching methods. He is going to utilize the videos by allowing his students to get real world experience in filming and editing by using the projects as templates and allowing students to work with the footage. “I will show students the videos that have been completed and then give them access to the footage for them to create their own videos. Hopefully it will be a good learning experience in editing large amounts of footage and creating projects for a professional organization.” However, Mr. Beshiri is not letting the inspiration stop there. He also plans to use his experience with EGA to help ECCHS’ CTAE Department start more partnerships with businesses in the community, and hopes the new partnerships will allow more student-controlled projects with an advisor overseeing them.Emma Smith is a Junior at Elbert County Comprehensive High School and a member of the school newspaper staff and is part of the Blue Devils News Network.Eagle Granite Company is proud to introduce talented young artist Adam Davis as a member of its design team. Davis, an Elberton native and graduate of the University of Georgia, joined Eagle’s team as a hand etcher and laser artist two years ago. Davis is also a noted painter, having been featured in galleries across the nation. Recently, Davis’ artwork The Dreamer, inspired by Davis’ 5-year old son Gryffin, has been featured in “Poets & Artists” magazine and in a gallery exhibition titled, “Sight Unseen” at Abend Gallery in Denver, Colorado. He is a member of the Portrait Society of America, and when he’s not in the studio at Eagle, he spends time in his personal studio, primarily working with charcoal, oil, chalk, and gold leaf. He describes his artwork as “simultaneously realistic and magical...the inner workings of the heart and mind.” A graduate of Elbert County Comprehensive High School, Davis began a work study program in laser etching while in high school. “By the time I was in third grade I knew I wanted to do art. When I was a teenager, I got to apprentice with Troy Ayers (also a designer at Eagle) back when he had his own etching studio. I worked with Troy for years as I developed my own artistic interests.” The combination of Davis, who holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from UGA, and Troy Ayers, a gradute from the Art Institute, provides Eagle’s customers with a design team capable of artistic vision coupled with practical graphic design experience. Together, the duo have created many unique designs that are, according to Davis, “based on many of the traditional images you see on monuments, but with specialized elements that are interpretive and interchangeable. Plus we do a lot of unique hand etching that we’re proud of because it gives us a chance to express ourselves as artists and it provides Eagle’s customers with a special memory of their loved ones.” “It’s great working here,” said Davis, “I get to be here every day etching and drawing, and then I go home and work in my art studio. It’s a good way to live.”Johnson Machine Shop recently designed and fabricated a new small hand polishing machine on a swivel post that can easily be moved to another location where there is no beam (such as a crane runway beam) on which to mount a swivel post. It can be used to polish the top of dies or small pieces of stone and/or to hone surfaces of stones. Owner Steve Johnson states that, “This is a very useful mobile polisher in that it can be bolted to the floor and also be moved around to accommodate whatever jobs need to be produced. Besides being mobile, it’s very easy to use and can perform some tasks that previously might have had to be worked by hand.” With its innovative design and ease of use, this custom polisher helps granite companies by reducing labor costs and increasing job efficiency. For more information, contact Steve or Clark Johnson at 706-283-5750.People are constantly looking for ways to remember loved ones who pass away. Porcelains Unlimited, a company that creates memorabilia and urns to help remember deceased friends and family members, is proud to announce a new product line of personalized urns and engraved and indoor personalized items with fast turnaround. These products are unique to the industry. The new line is made from high quality materials and helps to celebrate the lives of those who have passed. Additionally, Porcelains Unlimited has partnered with Eternal Time Keeper to allow families to add electronic memorial site sensor tags to nearly every single item in their catalog. These two new endeavors will allow people to further remember their passed loved ones and are projected to be a big hit on the market. When people lose someone they love, it is important that they have ways of remembering the soul they lost. The new line by Porcelains Unlimited offers high quality products that further honor those who are missed. Products include porcelain books, plaques, porcelain photos, keepsakes and more. By partnering with Eternal Time Keeper, Porcelains Unlimited gives customers the flexibility and technology to add sensors to items that direct to an online memorial site. This advanced technology cannot be found anywhere else. Taking it one step further, Porcelains Unlimited has also partnered with End Plans, a funeral planning website and publication, that aims to provide all the resources a person needs to set up their own funeral arrangements. A recent addition to their website is the launch of a new section containing skilled monument makers broken down by state, offering quality choices for memorials which will stand the test of time. Rather than bland generic memorials, these monuments, created by professionals, serve as a testament that reflects the life that passed away. “We are very happy to feature high quality monument companies on our blog, making it simple for a user or web visitor to connect with skilled professionals,” commented a spokesperson from End Plans. “This is an important part of funeral planning, as the monument is a lasting memory that family and friends will see and visit well into the future. When using the less than impressive choices a funeral home will generally select isn’t a good option, now our blog makes finding a premium option very easy.” According to End Plans, monument companies are featured in every state, with attention paid to only feature talented, reliable and respected choices. End Plans is well respected as funeral planning guide and end of life planning blog that provides an extensive collection of actionable information and useful articles covering this challenging area where many people are in need of experienced guidance. Every effort is made to stay unbiased and provide trustworthy reviews, content and end of life tips. Design Mart has just released version 2.0 of the cloud-based Monument Designer, according to Mike Fernandez, owner of Design Mart. “We are constantly upgrading the app to provide users with more features while also making it more user friendly,” Fernandez says. “Since it is web-based anyone who is able to negotiate web sites and browse the web can operate our Online Designer.” As shown below there are 12 new user interface options: 1. New, faster export and email filters for producing color pictures. Color images are now more compact and generate quicker than ever. There are also faster export options vector drawings that are compatible with Gerber, MonuCad, Corel Draw, Illustrator, AutoCad, Flexi, Lxi, Signlab, WinPC, and many more. 2. All new Global Search feature allows search terms multiple words or portions of words yielding more results in each category. 3. Search results are shown for each category as a red number at the bottom right corner of each category icon. In this example a search for “Angels” resulted in 28 Classic Monuments featuring Angels, 1 Blank Monument featuring an angel sculpture, 154 Angel sandblast components for placement on monument designs, and 18 laser etching Angels. 4. All D-mart books are available for browsing or searching. These monuments are complete and ready for names and dates Components may be removed, and others may be added. The user’s view may be changed from 1 to 4 columns depending on the size and number desired for preview at one time. 5. Users now see numbers in the top right corner of each representative component icon to display the number of search result in each category. 6. Keyboard Shortcuts are easy to display and allow users access to tools such as grid and measurement tools when needed. 7. Select, Pan, and Zoom tools have been moved to the bottom of the screen for easy access at any time. 8. The enhanced Layer Management tool makes it easy to select a layer or component for placement or change. Layers may be easily moved in front of or behind on another by simply clicking and dragging. 9. Granite colors may be quickly chosen for each monument base and vase. Each color is available in three textures: polish, frost, and rock pitch. Prices adjust as sides and tops are changed from rock pitch to sawn or polished. 10. Alignment tools make it easy to align one row of text with another, align text within a panel, and align panels on a monument. 11. Undo and Redo buttons have been moved to make them easily accessible at any time during the layout process and are part of the default user interface. 12. Text options are easy to find, and they allow easy selection of lettering style, size, line spacing, letter spacing, and text effects such as Skew and Rotate. Even with all the new features the default User Interface (shown at left) remains very simple and easy to navigate according to Design Mart CTO Kelly Storm. We listened to our users, and added features they requested,” says Storm. “But we also found ways to present the new features in a user-friendly way through the use of dockers and flyout menus. This new user interface gives users a lot more “real estate” or screen space to work with. In each new release we have found ways to minimize tools and increase the working canvas, while making tools easy to reach.” When all dockers and flyouts are closed, users are left with a simple, clean view of the monument. From here users can export color renderings or import the image into a contract for client approval as shown at left. Although the new features make it look like a fully functional application that would typically be downloaded or installed from a CD, it is still all cloud based, according to Fernandez. “The fact that the Online Designer is cloud based means users can access their work anywhere at any time.” Says Fernandez, “Users do not have to be in front of a PC or CAD program in a back room. They may work from a showroom, outdoor display, cemetery or an office to create and customize monuments that can be sent to any CAD program as shown below. All of a user’s work is saved on the cloud and can be opened and edited at any time.” When asked about operating systems and various browsers Storm says a lot of effort goes into ensuring that the app is easy for everyone to use regardless of the type of device or browser. “Browsers are contantly changing and evolving,” says Storm. “These changes require constant vigilance to ensure that we are compatible across the board. This app can be used on Macs and any PCs with Safari, Internet Explorer, Edge, Firefox, and Chrome.” The Online Catalog portion of the platform is compatible with phones and all devices as shown below, and the Designer itself is compatible with devices including iPads and tablets. A free 30-day trial is available at www.designmart.com. Please call Design Mart at 800-736-7455 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.