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The revival of a building material with a long tradition

Some things are, at first glance, quite unfamiliar to the world at large. Travertine for example. Travertine is more or less porous limestone with a bright, mostly yellow to brown colour, deposited from cold or warm fresh-water sources. The medium-sized business, TRACO – or Deutsche Travertin Werke – from Bad Langensalza (Thuringia), is a company steeped in tradition which has been using travertine and other limestones and sandstones for 100 years to produce structural parts ranging from paving stones to the Gothic tracery in Bad Langensalza.

Compared to artificial stone, the natural aesthetic qualities of natural stone make it captivating. Each stone is unique and individual as regards colour and variety. This particularly applies to travertine, limestone and sandstone. "For many centuries, these stones in particular have been favoured in exclusive country houses, castles and churches due to the fact that their elegantly low-key and puristic charisma make them particularly appealing," remarked Ulrich Klösser from TRACO. It is for this reason that he set himself the task of rediscovering exceptional lime and sandstones. Sandstone, travertine, shell limestone from the classic stone quarries of Weimar, Gotha, Bad Langensalza... Stones which aroused even Goethe's fascination. Preferred by Mies van der Rohe and other Bauhaus architects such as Peter Behrens and Erich Mendelsohn. Travertine, limestone and sandstone can be used in a number of areas. Everywhere in architecture, in gardening and landscaping, interior constructions and restorations where natural aesthetics are favoured. Especially popular are floor coverings for both exterior and interior areas, facades and restoration components. However, this success story of a medium-sized business is rather an exception in an industry which has undergone great changes in the last few years. TRACO has withstood a number of recessions due to the fact that is the market leader in a particular segment, the so-called German natural stone classics, and because, thus far, the entrepreneurs themselves are cultivating the virtues of German medium-sized businesses: diligence, quality and sense of responsibility.

A German-German business history:

Ulrich Klösser, great-grandson of the founder Karl Teich, has been managing this medium-sized business with these virtues since 1993. In the executive board, Ulrich Klösser is responsible for controlling, finances, marketing and corporate development. By his side: Erhard Stiefel, responsible for the production, quarries and logistics division. TRACO can bear witness to the highs and lows of 20th century Germany history like practically no other company. TRACO was founded in 1907 with the name Deutsche Travertin- und Marmorwerke Karl Teich Langensalza - Berlin. The business experienced its initial heyday during the Weimar era (until 1929). TRACO was one of the most significant businesses in natural stone during the German Reich. With companies in Langensalza, Kelheim an der Donau and Silesia. Numerous reference constructions in Berlin and all of Germany document this first company heyday: from the castle of Sanssouci to the Henkel sparkling-wine cellars in Wiesbaden, from the Reichstag in Berlin to the Bahlsen biscuit factory in Hannover. The German travertine factories were shut down in 1942 as the contractors refused to quarry stone in occupied areas or to process orders for the armaments industry. The company was forced to rent out its factory halls to other businesses, stone quarrying was able to be continued to a lesser degree. After the war, production was resumed immediately. However, in 1953 the company was converted into a state-owned enterprise and the family of proprietors ousted. In 1993, Ulrich Klösser, the great-grandson of the company founder, took over the company from the trust (reprivatization) – he had already started applying his full commitment to this company owned by his predecessors. Even then, the seeds for the new heyday of the German Travertine Factory (Deutsche Travertinwerke) were sown. The West-German proprietor, Ulrich Klösser, (previously Managing Director of the natural-stone group of "Heidelberger Zement") entered the company management and has since led the company together with the East German, Erhard Stiefel (Managing Director), the person who had already managed the company courageously through the turbulent times of the German reunification. This saw an ideal amalgamation of different strengths and experiences and this became the starting point for one of the few German-German success stories in the industrial sector of the newly-formed German states. On its journey from the 20th to the 21st century, TRACO withstood six different political systems, dispossession, inflation, global economic crisis, economic slumps and numerous building trends. At the point when Erhard Stiefel and Ulrich Klösser took TRACO's destiny into their hands, it looked as though this traditional corporation had only a minimal chance of survival. However, with strategic aptitude, the virtues of the German medium-sized businesses and good fortune, the impossible did indeed happen. The contracts range from the restoration of the Wartburg to the new construction of the synagogue in Düsseldorf and the Mövenpick hotel in Münster.

In addition to values such as quality and staying power, and its pronounced social corporate ethics, the company exercises virtues which are typical for medium-sized businesses even today: reservation and discretion. The quality of the products and not the executive board performance is at the forefront of the corporate philosophy. All that is known about the chief executive; Ulrich Klösser, is that he is a member of the Rotary Club and an active promoter of the traditional "Herzoglicher Golfclub Oberhof" (ducal golf club of Oberhof) which is currently under reconstruction, an establishment which was also founded in 1907- the same year as Deutsche Travertinwerke. His reserved character has not stopped Ulrich Klösser from being extremely successful: with over 100 employees, an increase in sales of 10-20% was achieved over the last few years. Future prospects are superb. For travertine, lime and sandstones have not only aesthetic but also ecological benefits: the energy consumed during the manufacturing process is minimal compared to that for other building materials. Once used, quarries are often turned into high-quality leisure terrains or lakes, or interesting biotopes are created. Nothing is lost during extraction and processing. In many cases, excavation material is used for building stones, paving stones or gravel or is at least used for filling the quarry. Nothing is lost in the entire loop of extraction, processing and return to nature or in recycling. And do not forget: travertines are even "renewable raw materials" as they are continually being regenerated.