All in the Family

Washington Rock Quarries Tackles Community Outreach Through Its Own Channels And Sponsorship In A Signature Event.

By Therese Dunphy

For small operators, participation in larger events can increase their visibility and broaden their ability to convey information about their business to the public at large. Such is the case for Washington Rock Quarries, which participates each year in Dozer Day Seattle, hosted by the Washington chapter of the National Utility Contractors Association.

The 2024 event was attended by more than 10,000 who purchased tickets for the chance to operate big machinery, participate in family fun activities, and learn more about the various member industries.

The operator is a longtime sponsor of the event. Over the years, it has refined how it entertains and educates participants. For example, Eve Hart, Washington Rock’s community relations manager, says the booth focused on rock painting during its early years. Then, it moved to a sand and slide theme using sand boxes filled with its golf-course sand and an inflatable slide.

“I liked the slide because I could hire a company, and they would provide their own staff to operate it,” Hart said. “That way, we could focus on greeting guests and handing out stickers and giveaways.” For the last two years, the setup was beach themed with flamingos in construction hats on the décor and stickers. This year, it transformed into a Dino Dig.

“I don’t want it to be the same each year because, while it’s mostly different people each year, there are repeats,” she said. “I want to offer a different experience.”

Sandboxes were filled with dinosaur fossil stamps, dinosaurs and plastic construction equipment. Hundreds enjoyed the activity. Participants dug up 1,500 toy dinosaur eggs in its Fossil Hunt treasure chest. More than 2,2000 custom-designed stickers, which highlight the company’s pride in its work and environmental stewardship, were given away.

“We get a lot of verbal feedback during the event,” Hart explained. “Visitors ask about who we are and what our business is about.” Some repeat attendees come back and collect the different stickers that are offered each year, telling Hart that they use them to decorate their laptops and water bottles.

“The fact that they remember us is, I think, a sign of success.”

Participants dug up 1,500 toy dinosaur eggs at Washington Rock’s Fossil Hunt portion of Dozer Day Seattle 2024. Photo: Washington Rock

Family First
Washington Rock Quarries is an Orting, Wash.-based family-owned business. It operates Kapowsin Quarry and King Creek Pit. Established by her father, Harry, in 1998, the business is now run by her brother Jonathan.

Hart has worked for the business off and on since she was 14 years old. In recent years, she has put her communications degree to work as she’s focused on advertising and community relations for the company. Those responsibilities include an update of the company’s website, writing its blog, overseeing social media channels, producing event reels, and planning community outreach events such as summer barbecues Dozer Days.

She also works with the family to address common neighbor issues such as tracking on roads with a street sweeper and providing free landscaping materials to important causes. The operations are tucked into the woods, but near a lake, which can draw public attention to the operation.

Creating Community Advocates
Although some trial and error is necessary, Hart said it’s important to understand the difference between the different initiatives and social media platforms and to use them appropriately. For example, Instagram skews toward a younger audience while Facebook is often more visible to the operation’s neighbors, employees, and employee families.

“It’s easy to get stuck on trying to get followers and likes,” she said. “I try to focus on informing the public what we’re doing at our operations and mixing it up with photos and projects we’re involved in and local organizations that have benefitted from our materials. I’m still surprised by what gets attention versus what doesn’t. I don’t think there’s a magic formula.”

Hart’s efforts are paying off. When a community member targeted her on social media with direct messages and then disparaged the company on a local community page, Hart worried about how to respond. While she sent a well-reasoned and logical direct message in private, a public response was unnecessary. Community members quickly shut the person down with comments about how much the company does for the community. “Community outreach is about helping people see we’re human beings and educating them about what we do,” she said.

Mission accomplished.

Therese Dunphy has covered the aggregates industry for nearly 30 years, while also serving multiple roles as a public official. As the owner of Stone Age Communications, she provides communications consulting services to help aggregate producers build stronger relationships within the communities they serve. She can be reached at [email protected].