Fort Worth, Texas — John Farber, the founder of sheet extruder Primex Plastics Corp. and specialty chemical maker ICC Industries Inc., was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Plastics Engineers' thermoforming division at its conference.
Farber, 93, was born in Romania and came to the United States for doctoral study under legendary polymer researcher Herman Mark at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute.
Farber founded Primex in a garage in Englewood, N.J., in 1965 with one extruder. Today, Primex has more than 125 extrusion lines, said Blaise Sarcone, ICC Industries president and chief financial officer. The company employs 1,100 people at nine locations in six states and the United Kingdom, Sarcone said.
Sarcone accepted the award for Farber at the Thermoforming Conference's awards dinner, held Sept. 25 at AT&T Stadium.
Farber did not attend, but Thermoforming Conference attendees watched a video that detailed his story. He thanked the division for the award.
"I'm very proud of the company's success, under its excellent leadership, and all the hard-working employees," Farber said.
Sarcone said Farber "never lost his belief that plastics are critical to our lives. It's made many of our possessions cheaper, lighter, safer and stronger."
He said Farber and his companies remain committed to sustainability.
"His long-term vision and determination led him to pursue the growth which has endured for over 65 years. Along with his steadfast commitment to his companies, his employees and his customers have been contributing factors to his remarkable achievements and success," Sarcone said.
The "65 years" comment refers to ICC Chemicals, which Farber started as a trading company while he was doing his thesis at Brooklyn Polytechnic.
But his story goes back to his younger days in Romania when his family operated a paint manufacturing company. Conditions were harsh during World War II as the Romanian government developed close ties Nazi Germany. When the war ended, the Soviet Union took over. Farber's father was arrested and forced to surrender his factory and all private property to the communist government, according to a video shown at the Thermoforming Conference.
When he was released from prison, the family decided to flee Romania. They went to Vienna, then Farber moved to the newly formed state of Israel. He lived there for several years, and they got an invitation to study with Herman Marks in the polymer doctoral program. He moved to New York in the early 1950s.
According to the video, he started a chemical trading business, first specializing in yarns and synthetic fibers, and added plastics and paint technology. It became ICC Chemical Corp.
"He gradually learned which products were valuable for export because Europe had been cut off from the U.S. market during the war," the narrator said.
Farber sold polystyrene for one of his early contacts, Foster Grant Co., and he learned about extrusion. He rented the Englewood garage, and the rest is Primex history.
Today, Primex Plastics, in addition to extruded sheet, does custom design and fabrication, and it makes specialty compounds and color concentrates.
In 2014, the company named its new technical center the John J. Farber Technology and Innovation Center at its headquarters in Richmond, Ind.