You could say that resin runs through the veins of Joseph T. Pregont.
The president and chief executive officer of Prent Corp. has been named the 2001 Thermoformer of the Year by the Society of Plastics Engineers 12 years after his father, Jack, was bestowed with the same distinction.
The honor for the junior Pregont seems to follow naturally the path he began at the age of 9, when he first earned 35 cents an hour sweeping floors and cleaning toilets at the thermoforming company his father founded 34 years ago in Janesville, Wis.
He built upon his early knowledge of plastics with a degree in packaging technology from the University of Wisconsin. However, Pregont said that perhaps nothing better prepared him for his leadership role at Prent than starting from the ground floor and working his way up through the company.
``You get the benefit of working many jobs you would never have worked if you were hired into an industry,'' Pregont said. ``From working as a pattern maker to a toolmaker, to running thermoforming equipment - all those things allowed me a better understanding of the whole system.''
He took the CEO reins from his father 17 years ago. The company makes packaging for medical, electronics and consumer goods.
``The business in general has changed with the way that world markets have changed, forcing us to react to customer needs which were a lot different than they were in the '80s,'' Pregont said in a recent telephone interview. ``Demand for more-sophisticated quality measurements, heavy emphasis on statistics and quality, customers demanding shorter and shorter lead times for development of tooling, and just-in-time inventory requirements have really affected how we run our systems and meet our customers' needs.''
Prent also operates facilities in Flagstaff, Ariz.; San Jose, Costa Rica; and Johor Darul Takzim, Malaysia, supplying major-name customers such as Johnson & Johnson, Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp.
The industry has taken notice of Prent's progress. In recent years, Prent has walked away from various thermoforming conventions and conferences with awards recognizing the company's innovations, especially in medical applications.
Last year, the company took the critical barrier packaging award for the sterile hip-replacement-part package at the SPE Thermoforming Division conference in Columbus, Ohio.
In 1999, Prent was recognized twice for its packaging for a coronary imaging catheter: It won a prize from SPE's Thermoforming Division and one from the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s Thermoforming Institute.
In 1998, Prent won an SPE award for a polycarbonate package for its glass holiday ornament, one for a PVC medical protective package and one for a glycol-modified PET, two-panel medical container.
According to Plastics News' estimates, the company has annual sales of about $60 million. Pregont said the company has enjoyed steady, double-digit annual growth, but he would not reveal sales data.
``Our business is growing very nicely,'' Pregont said. ``Our business is going the opposite direction of what a lot of the plastics industry is doing. It's work that we've been working on for a long time that's finally coming around and happening.''
The 600 or so Prent employees enjoy a profit-sharing program, 100 percent-paid health benefits and other competitive perks, Pregont boasted.
Outside the walls of Prent's manufacturing facilities, the company has been actively involved in local and national charities and, during the past 10 years, has given away more than a quarter of a million dollars in scholarships to local students to study engineering, Pregont said.
The Janesville native, husband and father of three enjoys golf, hunting, fishing and boating with his family when he is not running things at the plants, which normally operate on four 10-hour shifts, seven days a week.
Pregont has made history not only by being part of the first father-son team to earn this title, but also because at 43, he so far is the youngest person to be named SPE's Thermoformer of the Year.
Pregont will be honored at the annual SPE thermoforming conference, set for Sept. 15-18 in Milwaukee.