BUTTE – Paris is known as the city of love, but one Butte resident is proving that love can be found in the Mining City as well as abroad.
In September Anthony Blacklock opened Blacklock Block Manufacturing: a cement- and paver-manufacturing company in the Montana Connections Business Development Park 9 miles west of Butte.
But Blacklock didn’t always intend on opening a manufacturing company in the windswept industrial park.
In the early 2000s he was living in his native Scotland, going about his life as the owner of a fireproofing company, when he decided to post a YouTube video of himself giving a monologue on Scottish independence.
Meanwhile, 4,200 miles away in the Mining City, Blacklock’s future wife Whitney – “a Butte girl born and bred,” said Blacklock – was browsing Scottish YouTube videos because, as Blacklock tells the story, she liked the accents.
“This is where the plot thickens,’ Blacklock said.
Whitney left a comment on the YouTube video, and before the two knew it, they were corresponding regularly in a slurry of video chats.
Eventually Whitney traveled to Scotland to meet him, which was the first of several meetings that would lead to the Scottish native moving to Butte and the two getting married a few weeks later in 2009.
However, Blacklock didn’t decide to open a cement and paver manufacturing company out of the blue – he has experience in the trade.
At age 16 he had an apprenticeship, where he learned the ins and outs of cement.
After he moved to the Mining City, he worked at Les Schwab for about five years until he decided to put his expertise to use by opening the cement company.
With the help of Butte’s Tax Increment Financing Industrial District, which is loaning space to Blacklock, he was able to set up shop in the SepticNET building, at 119920 Rick Jones Way.
SepticNET, which has been in Butte as early as 2006, recently built the Rick-Jones facility, and both businesses held a ribbon cutting Sept. 30 during a celebration for the 30-year anniversary of the nearby Port of Montana.
Blacklock said his company offers pavers of all types – including decorative ones used in landscaping – along with curbstones for parking lots. He said one of Blacklock’s curbstones is 100-percent porous, which makes them good for preventing water accumulation in structures like parking garages and storage facilities.
But perhaps one of the more interesting products that Blacklock plans to offer is one still in development.
He said he hopes to use Anaconda slag as a strengthening agent in one of his products.
Blacklock said he came up with the idea after taking time off from Les Schwab due to an injury. During his recovery, he had some free time on his hands, so he often went fishing at Georgetown Lake.
Along the way he would drive past the slag dunes of Anaconda.
I always passed the black slag and I thought, ‘there must be a use for this.’” said Blacklock. “I looked into it, and it turns out it strengthens concrete.”
He said the curing process for cement containing slag is longer than that for a product containing traditional agents, but to him the extra time is worth it.
“It would be nice to have a product with that application” Blacklock said, noting that his facility is capable of producing 20,000 bricks in eight hours, and that each would be made up of 45 percent slag.
“You’re going to get through a lot of it very fast,” he said.
Blacklock added that slag contains some unsavory compounds like arsenic, but that the bricks will be safe because the cement encapsulates the slag, which is also inert.
Aside from strengthening the cement, Blacklock said he believes the slag will also alter the color for decorative effect.
However, he won’t know how the bricks will turn out until he’s tested the process for making them. He said he plans to collaborate with Montana Tech, whose officials will test the bricks for strength.
When asked how Butte compares to other parts of the world he’s visited, Blacklock said he appreciates residents’ genuine, straight-forward style.
“What you see is what you get with the people,” said Blacklock.
As for his home country Scotland, Blacklock said Scottish independence continues to be near and dear to his heart.
“For me, the most passionate thing in my life is for Scotland to get its independence,” said Blacklock, adding that his passion for Scottish freedom helps him appreciate his new life in wide open spaces.
“The freedom that you have – God, in Montana – is unbelievable. I mean, it must be the freest place on earth.”
He said that on that very last flight from Scotland to Butte he bought a book at the airport: President Barack Obama’s "The Audacity of Hope.''
“That gave me an understanding of what was possible here,” said Blacklock.
For Blacklock, Montana might very well be the last best place.
“I’m so grateful,” He added. “I’ve got five beautiful children (and) got this finally up and running.”