Blog Entry #7 May 30, 2017: Ann Arbor – Howell, MI – Thermofil 25 year reunion

Fellow Thermofil alumna and successful plastics business entrepreneur, Don, arranged a once-in-a-lifetime (my lifetime anyway) opportunity at his business for the members of our prior company to get reacquainted over lunch.

In August, 1969 I left my position as Plastics Engineer at Dow Chemical Company in Midland, MI to join a fledgling plastics compounding company near Ann Arbor, MI. There were 5 of us in “managerial” positions at that point. I recall us sitting around the table conjuring up position titles when it came time to have business cards printed up.

I took on the title of Technical Service Manager to make a comforting impression on perspective customers. As typical of a small company, my duties also encompassed quality control, compound formulation, product development, customer sample compounding, process development, and sales support (plant engineering came on later). Over the next 20 years we grew the company to a point where in 1988 we became attractive to a plastics division of a large Japanese company that wanted to establish a USA based facility to satisfy the specialty plastics needs of what were then called “Japanese transplants” (Japanese companies who were “encouraged” to set up manufacturing locations in the USA rather than continue to export products “made in Japan”). I stayed on with the new owners as Vice President of Research and Development – an impressive title for a pretty much administrative role. The new owners were very capable, and pleasant to work with. Jean and I formed many lasting relationships with their members. Then, in 1992, with both daughters pretty much off on their own, Jean and I bid Michigan adieu and moved to Cary, NC.

As you might imagine, over the 20+ years of growing a company, there were many challenges. Being a small, growing company, these potentially game changing challenges brought the team members (Don included) tightly together; forming close friendships and trusting relationships. We shared many tense situations and a few very humorous ones. So, for Don to arrange to have a dozen of us all come together in one place, after 25 years in Jean and my case, was so very heart warming. It was truly an unforgettable experience.

So, do you think that my greeting “gee you don’t look as old as I thought you would after 25 years” was a complimentary opening line for me to use?? Anyway, we had a great time, breaking off into small groups to get caught-up and share memories (just the good ones).

Folks drifted off after lunch (many still with business obligations, but thinking ahead to post retirement activities) and Jean and I headed back to Ann Arbor to get ready for dinner out with neighbors in Saline. Had the best Jambalaya that I can recall in a restaurant in Saline with our prior neighbors that evening who then took us on a tour of the Saline area to see the changes that had transpired in our 25 year absence. Great day!

Blog Entry #6 May 29, 2017: Marion, OH to Ann Arbor, MI; OVERLAND smoke stack, Dundee Park
Blog Entry #8 May 31, 2017: Ann Arbor, Lavonia, & Saline, MI