Thermoforming pioneer Jack Elmer Pregont died April 17 in Sarasota, Fla., at age 85.
Throughout his half century in the business, Pregont helped shape the modern thermoforming sector. He believed complete control of the whole thermoforming process was essential to its success and he put that belief into practice at Prent Corp., the international thermoforming company he founded in 1967.
Pregont's peers recognized his contributions to thermoforming. In 2007 he was named to the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Thermoforming Division of the Society of Plastics Engineers. His leadership helped Prent garner 15 WorldStar packaging awards. In 1981, Pregont helped establish the Thermoforming Institute of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. and was its first chairman.
Pregont's fascination with plastics began when he was in his teen years in Janesville, Wis. What first caught his eye was an article in Popular Mechanics magazine on how celluloid ping pong balls were made. Most of his early creations were birthday cake decorations that complemented the family's bakery business.
“My mother's kitchen oven was my heat source and she complained about that for the rest of her life,” Pregont recalled in a tribute by his family.
Pregont pursued vertical integration as a path to thermoforming excellence. He led Prent's entry into in-house design and tooling production and in-house sheet extrusion. The extrusion operation eventually became a separate, major extrusion company, Goex Corp.
“Jack had the philosophy of doing whatever he could do to take into account a customer's quality control requests,” said Walt Walker, former Prent CEO who worked with Pregont for 28 years, in a phone interview. “Nothing was left to chance.”
Pregont was ahead of his time in introducing progressive human resource policies at Prent, including the Mini-Shift employment concept of shortened work hours for employee flexibility.
“He was very fair with employees,” Walker added. “He set up a profit-sharing employee retirement plan still in effect today.”
Early sales of cake decorations through mail order helped Pregont accumulate enough capital to buy a small factory and equip it with upgraded thermoforming machines. Thus Prent was born, with an initial staff of 15 that eventually grew to a company with factories in the United States, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Denmark and Puerto Rico. Now Prent thermoforms components for a ‘who's who' list of major medical device and electronics manufacturers.
Jack Pregont's son, Joseph T. Pregont, and Joseph's children carry on the Prent and Goex businesses.
Jack is survived by his wife of 60 years, Carol, and three children. A celebratory service was scheduled for April 21 at St. William Catholic Church in Naples, Fla. His family has established a memorial in Pregont's name for Lewy Body Dementia.