THE HISTORY OF VOTORANTIM’S EXPANSION IN BRAZIL HAS A SERIES OF IMPORTANT EPISODES AND HAS ITS GREATEST STARTED IN THE BEGINNING OF THE 1940S.

Brazil was going through an important industrial development process in the 1930s and 1940s and Votorantim played a key role in the process. With the economic difficulties imposed by the Second World War and the restrictions on the import of products, the country is forced to make an effort to expand its industrial park and increase its production.

In 1942, Antonio Pereira Ignacio writes to the interventor Agamenon Magalhães: “I, too, since I became an industrialist, through my own effort, coming from the band of a humble shoemaker, acquired a personal notion of the industry and the true function of an industrialist. Brazil needs a vigorous industrial expansion. Certainly, I always determined that the profits of my industries would be mobilized in favor of new factories. Others may say that you have a lot of money. I am satisfied to confess that they are at the service of Brazil. I understand that the industrial effort is only legitimate when it can expand within the Nation. I do not understand the industry due to a regional spirit, it must live from Nation to Nation. Instead of spending 20,000: 000 $ 000 in the Poty Cement Factory in this capital, I could have set up two more cement kilns in São Paulo. It would be a much smaller expenditure, incalculably harder. However, I was guided by other thoughts: Pernambuco needed its own industry and was in a position to deserve it. The possibilities of this State as a radiating center for all regions of the North and Northeast of Brazil could not fail to be taken into account ”.

Why the Northeast?

The scarcity of cement in the market, the existence of high-quality limestone deposits and the growing demand due to urbanization processes in northeastern cities were crucial factors in choosing Pernambuco as the headquarters for Votorantim’s new cement factory. In addition to these economic factors, the connection of José Ermírio de Moraes with his State of origin. In 1942, the Fábrica de Cimento Poty was inaugurated in the municipality of Paulista, in the interior of Pernambuco. The city had a strategic location for product distribution in the State and in the Northeast.

Poty Paulista was one of the first large cement factories in the Northeast, its production would meet the needs of the entire region and reach 450 tons of cement per day.

During the 1930s and 1940s, Recife was undergoing an intense process of urban restructuring, about 30% of the city’s residences were made up of mocambos – precarious low-income housing built with wood, straw and clay – and the Pernambuco government was committed to change that situation. The challenge was the construction of popular houses to replace mocambos. The Poty Cement Factory had arrived at an opportune moment also for this constructive impulse.

At its inauguration, on March 23, 1942, José Ermírio de Moraes announced that the first five bags of cement would be symbolically donated to the “Social League Against Mocambo”, an institution created by federal interventionist Agamenon Magalhães to provide homes for the low-income population from the region, and such bags of cement were donated to the State Museum of Pernambuco so that four of them could be auctioned and the proceeds earmarked for the construction of popular houses.

Women and children next to a mocambo. In the background a Zeppelin Airship. Photograph taken by one of the crew of Lz127 Graf Zeppelin, in Areias, Recife, 1930

Under the command of Clóvis Scripilliti

Clóvis Scripilliti, from São Paulo who graduated in Engineering, married Maria Helena de Moraes, daughter of José Ermírio de Moraes in 1958. He was invited to work at Votorantim in 1960, when José Ermírio trusted his administration to run the business in the Northeast of the country. , among them, one of its biggest undertakings, Fábrica de Cimento Poty. In 1963, he enlarged the factory, installing a new oven, increasing production to 700 tons of cement per day.

In a short time, he begins to explore the deposits and the soil of the entire Northeast of the country, in search of a better place to install new factories. Still in the early 1960s, Clóvis leads the acquisition of two sugar mills. In 1967 Cimento Portland Sergipe was opened and, in 1968, Companhia Cearense de Cimento.
With precarious infrastructure, the region did not have a well-structured communication system that could link all the factories in the Northeast.
Clóvis decides, then, to create an internal radio communication system, by which daily all numbers of productions were passed to his control. The manager also created an exclusive transport company for Votorantim’s cement to reach the most remote parts of the Northeast. In 1970, another kiln from Fábrica Poty is inaugurated, thus ending its expansion cycle.

Cement factories in the Northeast helped Votorantim to become one of the largest companies in Brazil, with around 30% of national production. In 1977, when Votorantim purchased Companhia de Cimento Portland Itaú, it became the segment leader in the country with a 40% production share in the market.

It is also during this period that the first cement shipments outside the country begin to take place. Fábrica Poty starts exporting its products to Africa, through the port on the Timbó River, whose mouth in Paulista takes its waters to the Atlantic Ocean.

Picture 1 – Port of the Poty cement factory, on the Timbó River, 1948.
Image 2 – Clóvis Scripilliti