NICHOLASVILLE, KY. — With a resume that includes a master's degree and an executive position at a large company, Henry Jackson yearns to be an entrepreneurial role model. Jackson, president and majority owner of Jackson Plastics Inc., wants others thinking of starting minority-owned companies to learn from his experience.
"Black America needs role models they can relate to," Jackson said. "Not every one of us is ready to leave corporate America to go into business or is educated for that. There aren't a lot of people we can emulate."
Jackson Plastics plans to become one. The injection molding company, founded by Jackson in late 1994, reported $12 million in sales last year. It expects that figure to nearly double by the end of 2000, Jackson said.
On the horizon is a new manufacturing plant — Jackson's third — that opened in mid-January in Danville, Ill. The company invested $14 million in plant and equipment for the 52,000-square-foot facility. That's more than double the size of its main Nicholasville plant and headquarters.
The molder has grown with help from large suppliers such as Troy, Mich.-based Textron Automotive Co. Inc. The Danville plant will serve Textron's Rantoul, Ill., facility and others.
The molding operation takes Jackson closer to his roots. He grow up in a low-income neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. After getting a master's degree from the University of Notre Dame, he moved up the ranks to become chief financial officer of Clark Material Handling Co., a unit of Clark Equipment Co.
But a stint in Europe left Jackson hungry for a return to the States. He left Clark and enrolled in small-business and plastics programs at the University of Kentucky.
Once he started Jackson Plastics, he was embraced by Textron. The supplier helped Jackson learn the automotive business and put his molding shop over the hump, Jackson said. The molder, at its 24,000-square-foot plant in a Lexington, Ky., suburb, began sending plastic wheel covers and other parts to Textron's Athens, Tenn., plant.
The Danville facility is starting with 13 injection presses with clamping forces from 500-1,100 tons. The plant, on more than 20 acres, has plenty of room to expand, he said.
The facility also broadens Jackson's product base. The plant will supply instrument-panel cluster bezels, window cowl panels and other interior-trim parts.
Jackson does not take minority contracts as a given. Suppliers still must perform, whether they are minority- or majority-owned, he said.
But the playing field needs some leveling, too, he added.
The former corporate chief financial officer said that bank loans for minority-owned businesses have traditionally been offered at higher rates, dissuading some budding business people.
Jackson's financial acumen and relationships helped him secure venture capital funding to help in growth. Other companies might have to learn the same lessons, he said.
"[Minority-development programs] help some companies have a chance to work in the industry," Jackson said. "But you still have to do the right things to run a successful business. The programs are not altruism."