It is appropriate to think of Gordon Lankton in our annual special “Best Places to Work”. He helped make plastics manufacturing a great place to work for thousands of workers.
And not just at Nypro Inc., the company he has run for 50 years. Gordon has had a positive impact on other injection molders and mold makers around the world.
I don’t call him Gordon because he was a good friend, but because, despite his education in the Ivy League and his position as chairman and CEO of a $ 1 billion company, Gordon was able to connect with everyone on a personal level.
“He wasn’t Mr. Lankton,” said Randy Barko, who worked with Gordon for 25 years. “The first time he met someone, he said, ‘Call me Gordon.'”
When I first started writing Gordon’s obituary a few weeks ago, I ran into a problem. Finding contemporaries of an 89-year-old retired businessman and philanthropist can be difficult. But a week later, I was happy to hear from Ted Lapres, one of Gordon’s successors as President and CEO. He was eager to talk about Gordon’s legacy and connect me with other former Nypro executives who had great stories to tell.
Jim Buonomo remembered the first time he met Gordon. At the time, Buonomo was a Junior Accountant at one of Nypro’s many joint venture companies.
“I was there for about three weeks and really didn’t know much about Nypro. I was in the office on a Saturday morning and this person comes in and sits down, introducing himself as Gordon you know me.
“Later I asked my boss, ‘Who is Gordon?'” Buonomo was shocked that he had spoken to the President of Nypro.
Gordon died on March 6th, a few days before he was 90 years old. He built one of the best injection molders in the world, but his career went well beyond the plastics industry.
If our “Best Places to Work” program had existed in its time, Nypro would have been on the list every year. Just take a look at the descriptions of the benefits offered to this year’s winners: generous profit sharing, 401 (k) match, employee sharing. Nypro offered these decades ago. In 1997, Nypro was also the second plastic message processor of the year.
Young readers may not know Nypro as the name of the company is no longer known, but when I came to Plastics News in 1991, Nypro was the company that other injection moulders wanted to emulate.
It was based in Clinton, Massachusetts, but had factories around the world including Russia, China, and India. Nypro followed US customers around the globe and took its core values with it everywhere.
“When we went to China, it wasn’t supposed to be a cheap shaper. It should be the best caster in China, ”said Barko. “When we had a meeting, the first thing we would talk about was safety. Then about quality. P&L [profit & loss] would be further down the list. It was about spreading the Nypro culture. “
Nypro set up a local board at each of its plants to train future leaders and get them excited about the business. Today these former Nypro executives lead the world’s leading plastics companies.
A great story I heard while researching this column was why many Nypro locations, including headquarters, didn’t have cafeterias. Gordon wanted workers to get out at lunchtime and support local restaurants. It’s one of many reasons he and the company had a good reputation in every community where it did business.
Nypro was founded in 1955 and Gordon joined in 1962. In 1969 he became full owner. Then in 1998 he passed the property on to his employees through an employee participation plan.
When Jabil Circuit Inc. bought Nypro in 2013 for $ 665 million, it bought the shares of 1,900 ESOP members and an additional 200 key international employees who had stakes.
Our then editorial called Nypro “an admired and respected institution” and Gordon “a living legend in the plastics industry”.