CORONADO, CALIF. — The brothers LaFountain received this year's Western Plastics Award. It's not their first joint recognition.
The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s Western Region honored Joe and John LaFountain with Distinguished Service Awards in 1995 and lauded them anew with the group's highest honor.
The brothers were working for Los Angeles sheet manufacturer Atlas Plastics in the early 1970s when increases in oil prices boosted the economic viability of plastics recycling.
Joe LaFountain decided to begin collecting scrap from customers and formed Joe's Plastics Inc. in Pico Rivera, Calif., in 1973. John assisted him, and they found ways to sell recycled plastic back to processors.
Joe's Plastics employs about 75 and compounds and distributes resins.
John LaFountain branched out in 1978, moving to the San Francisco Bay area to form Bay Polymer Corp. in Fremont, Calif., initially with one grinder and one employee. Bay Polymer reprocesses plastic resins and does custom compounding. The firm now has almost 50 employees at its 22,000-square-foot plant.
While operating separate corporations, the brothers continue to work together in business programs where it makes sense to cooperate. Each has invested in recent years in laboratory quality testing, compatibility and blending systems to enhance each facility's ability to make uniform products.
Both have held numerous SPI regional and chapter leadership positions and supported industry initiatives in the political arena.
Joe is a director on the SPI Western Region board and was Southern California chapter chairman in 1994. He continues an annual tradition running a popular bingo game as a windup to SPI's spring gathering. Also, he is president of the Western Plastics Pioneers.
He strongly encouraged support for outfitting the plastics industry's education trailer.
"That is a very big program, and we are grateful for it," he said.
Also, Joe mentioned SPI's funding over several years to help the Orangewood Children's Home in Costa Mesa, Calif.
John is treasurer again of the SPI Northern California chapter and served as president from 1987-89. Also, he has held positions with the Society of Plastics Engineers' Golden Gate section.
The SPI region has presented the Western award since 1956 to recognize exceptional individual service. The forum was held May 11-12 in Coronado.
The SPI Western Regional Office is in Irvine, Calif. SPI is based in Washington.