The Andalusian Association of Marble Entrepreneurs – AEMA, is celebrating its anniversary. This iconic non-profit organisation has dedicated 45 years to the work of representing and defending the interests of the companies in the Marble Region, in order to contribute to the generation of wealth and employment. Since its birth in 1977, AEMA, which has had 14 presidents to date, has been an active part of the industrial reconversion in the region during the early years, has participated in the leap and consolidation of international markets, has created common services companies that made up for the lack of isolation that this inland area of the province of Almeria suffered, has worked hand in hand with the companies during the beginnings in promotion and participation in trade fairs and trade missions, is responsible for the creation of the Macael Awards, the implementation of strategic plans, the fight for the construction of infrastructures that improve the distribution channels and the great commitment to innovation and training, among many other initiatives.
Currently, a very important step has been taken in training through the implementation of Dual Vocational Training in International Trade, Industrial Mechatronics and Natural Stone in the region. In addition, work continues unceasingly in the restoration of the Sierra de Macael through the circular economy and, in terms of marketing and commercialisation, AEMA, with the firm objective of taking the marble of the region together with the know-how, to all corners of the planet, is focused on internationalisation, innovation, search for distribution channels and brand creation, both as a group ‘Marca Macael’, as well as at company level. This is the case of the presentation of the Macael Brand in the Metropolitan Museum of New York, the event held in the Alhambra in Granada last October, which brought together a large number of international prescriptors of natural stone and the different visits to architecture and design studios that, through the programme ‘Ambassadors of Marble’, in collaboration with EXTENDA, are carried out annually in the United States. The joint work of this industry, which has always known how to reinvent itself, has undoubtedly yielded fruitful results. Throughout history, there have not only been great advances in the exploitation of the material, but also in its commercialisation and transformation. From being an extraction centre, Macael has become an internationally recognised centre for the transformation of natural stone. Currently, the sales figure stands at 1,206 million and exports, although they have fallen, like sales, during 2020 due to the health crisis caused by Covid19, represent 82.8%. As for the evolution of employment, this year, with figures as of 31 January, AEMA has 4,545 direct workers, according to data from the General Treasury of the Social Security.
45 YEARS OF HISTORY
Founded on 21 February 1977, the Andalusian Marble Businessmen’s Association has been characterised by its constant evolution. It has gone from being a provincial association (the Asociación Provincial de Empresarios de Almería – APEM) to a regional one, and has worked to represent and defend the interests of companies, helping to generate wealth and employment. It has also focused on the task of positioning Macael marble as a leader in the natural stone market in Europe, America, Africa and Asia.
As a consequence of the isolation that this inland area of the province of Almeria suffered, common service companies were created, which, without any profit motive, made up for certain deficiencies. Thus, in January 1979, the company Aire Comprimido Mármol de Macael Sociedad Anónima was set up to channel and supply compressed air to the quarries at cost price. 1983 was a particularly important year for AEMA, its companies and the marble industry in general. An ambitious Strategic Plan was undertaken in collaboration with the Institute of Industrial Promotion of Andalusia, Administrations and Trade Unions, which led to the total reconversion of the region, both socially and economically. Social canteens were built in the sierra, the right to early retirement was recognised for the quarry workers, the machinery and installations of the factories were modernised with the latest technology, the most important roads in the sierra were asphalted and improvements were made to the roads, the electrical and telephone services were improved, the Macael Marble School was created, studies of marble reserves in the Sierra de Macael were carried out, promotion campaigns were carried out, and many other necessary actions that contributed to the take-off of the sector.
Two years later, AEMA materialised its promotional work with the creation, in 1985, of the ‘Premios Comarca del Mármol’, currently called ‘Premios Macael’; the most important event for the promotion of natural stone at a national level, which, this year, has celebrated its thirty-fourth edition. During this stage, SUIMASA was created as a supply purchasing centre. In 1990, the first steps in internationalisation were taken, participating with its own stand at the International Fair in Carrara, Italy, and carrying out a trade mission to the United States.
In 1994, after intense negotiations, mobilisations and continuous meetings with government officials and politicians from all parties, a legislative modification was achieved at national level so that all quarry machinery could use subsidised diesel; a fact that benefited the entire natural stone industry in Spain and which came into force in January 1995, the same date on which CESTEMA, a non-profit service company, was created to respond to the demands of the legal regulations, taking on the management of the quarries. In February of the same year, in response to the continuous demands of the businessmen, the Andalusian Parliament approved the construction of the Andalusian Stone Technological Centre in the Olula-Macael axis, which was inaugurated in 2002.
In 1997, the so-called ‘Strategic Plan of the Productive System of Macael’ was presented, with a spectacular result that exceeded by far the most optimistic forecasts; the growth of the sector was estimated by the technicians who evaluated the Plan, in the period 1996-2000, in an average rate of 31.9, while in the same period the construction had evolved with a rate of 6. The marble region became, at this moment, a transforming industry of all the materials.
It was 2002, when this Business Association received the Medal of Andalusia, awarded to AEMA in recognition of the fight for the economic and social development of the area, in its 25 years of life. That same year, another historic event took place: the visit to AEMA’s facilities, factories and quarries by His Royal Highness Felipe de Borbón, Prince of Asturias and Heir to the Crown.
In 2006, the Marca Macael Foundation was created, with the aim of positioning the companies in the international market. In 2013, the signing of the common position agreement for the protection of the Geographical Indications of Non-Agricultural Products took place and in 2015 AEMA received the 2014 Alas Award to the ‘International Trajectory’ from the Ministry of Economy of the Andalusian Regional Government, promoted the agreement for the restoration of the Patio de Honor of the Castle of Vélez Blanco and intervened in the modification of the requirements of the guarantees for the restoration of the Quarries.