Two businessmen heading major extruded vinyl building products companies were honored at the June 15 awards gala put on by the Canadian Plastics Industry Association.
Jim Ellies, president and chief operating officer of Gracious Living Innovations Inc., garnered the Leader of the Year Award in recognition of his 35 years in Canada's plastics industry, where he fostered industry competitiveness, innovation and environmental stewardship. Vic De Zen, chairman of Vision Extrusions Group, earned a Lifetime Achievement Award for helping make vinyl profiles an important ingredient in modern construction.
Both men are based in Woodbridge, Ontario. Ellies' company extrudes foamed vinyl as a wood replacement in spas and windows and in various industrial applications. De Zen's firm is a major in window and door profiles.
“I started out as a banker in venture capital markets,” Ellies recalled in a phone interview. “One of my accounts supplied parts to the Big 3 auto companies.”
Ellis joined PGTI Plastics of Whitby, Ontario, and began learning about extrusion, molding, plating and painting in the 1980s. He next joined Bolton, Ontario-based Crila Plastics Industries Ltd., which became an extrusion specialist that helped pioneer foamed PVC plastic lumber in the mid-1990s. Through merger with other plastics companies, Crila became part of CPI Group.
The 2008 recession hit CPI hard. The group reorganized and in 2009 it was acquired by Gracious Living Corp., a large housewares injection molder that had been owned for several years by De Zen's company, Royal Group Technologies Ltd.
Gracious Living Innovations has grown to a 66-extruder operation, the largest foam extrusion house in Canada. The firm's 200 or so employees work around the clock churning out Eon brand decking and other durable, complex extrusion products.
“We are in a high-value, engineered products industry,” Ellies said.
Vinyl building products empire