Naples, Fla. — Don't take America for granted, Demetre Loulourgas said at the Executive Forum.
Loulourgas, who dreamed of living in America while growing up in his native Greece, now owns American Tool and Mold Inc. and its injection molding arm, American Technical Molding, employing about 225 people in Clearwater, Fla.
He's living the American dream.
Loulourgas was 21 when he completed school as a ship engineer and came to the United States. He jumped ship in New Jersey with $20 in his pocket.
"This was the country I wanted to spend my entire life in," he recalled.
Loulourgas worked in the country illegally for four years, as a machinist for a company making airplane parts. But he was asked to leave and returned to Greece. His family was poor, "and I was sure I would find a way to become a legal immigrant one day," he said.
Later, Loulourgas applied to the Canadian embassy in Montreal and got a job as a machinist and a toolmaker, once again for airplane parts. He got married, and he and Penny moved to Ontario, where he continued his mold making career.
He got his green card to work legally in the United States and moved his family in 1976 — the U.S. bicentennial year. The United States needed mold makers.
"Getting a visa to come to the United States was the happiest day of my life. My dream had come true," Loulourgas said. He got a toolmaking job in Brooklyn, then moved to another company in Florida.
Loulourgas saved his money, and in 1984, he bought a 50 percent stake in American Tool and Mold. Four years later, he bought out his partner and owned the entire company. He started the custom molding operation in 1991, American Technical Molding.
American Tool and Mold is a diversified mold maker, specializing in high-cavitation molds for medical, caps and closures, and consumer products. Other technologies include spinning stack molds and conformal.
Loulourgas said the company has invested $1.8 million this year to boost automated mold locating and tool changes. "That's going to be a lights-out operation. We'll be working around the clock," he said.
Even as automation spreads in the mold making industry, Loulourgas said, companies will always need skilled toolmakers, designers and other technical people.
Loulourgas has strong feelings about transferring U.S. technology to China and other foreign countries: He said it hurts America. He cited cellphones, electronics, TVs, radios, appliances, and CNC machining.
"Those are lost technologies from our country that went to other countries around the globe," he said.
China has demanded the sharing of intellectual property in exchange for the chance to produce goods in that country. Opening trade with China was a good idea, but true free trade never happened, he said.
"We have made China our biggest competitor in the world, for now and for years to come," Loulourgas said.
Free trade has a downside if it's not fair trade, he said.
"I call it the one-way street," Loulourgas said. "What price are we gonna pay later for our kids and our grandkids?"
- Loulourgas grew up in Greece.
- At 21, he completed school and came to the United States. He jumped ship in New Jersey with $20 in his pocket.
- He worked in the country illegally for four years as a machinest for a company making airplane parts. He was asked to leave and returned to Greece.
- Later, he moved to Canada, where he got married and continued his mold making career.
- In 1976, he got his green card to work legally in the U.S. and moved his family to Brooklyn, then later to Florida.
- In 1984, he bought 50 percent of American Tool and Mold, then four years later he bought out his partner.