LOUISVILLE, Ky.-For Brazilian retread and tire repair product maker Borrachas Vipal S.A., being a good corporate citizen and an environmentally friendly company are just as important as making a profit.
Perhaps even more so, according to Joao Carlos Paludo. He is a son of company founder Vicencio Paludo, who, at age 83, remains active in the business.
"Our family has a humble history," the younger Paludo said while attending the recent World Tire Expo in Louisville. "My father started the business himself. He went through very hard times. We try to keep the values he´s given us."
Those values include viewing the business seriously, being humble, not arrogant, as a company, and having social responsibility as well as taking care of the environment.
"All of our grandparents came from Italy and immigrated to Brazil," said Paludo, Vipal executive vice president. "Originally they were very poor and very humble. We see that as a value."
The elder Paludo established Vipal in 1973 in Nova Prata, in Brazil´s Rio Grande state. He had owned a gas station that included a small retread shop and found it difficult and expensive to get tire repair materials. So, in 1967, he began making his own repair materials.
Before long, others in the tire business were asking him to produce repair materials for them. So in 1973 he struck out on his own and founded Vipal.
The company grew and in 1982-the first year telephone service came to Nova Prata-Vipal made its first export sale to Chile.
Today, Vipal boasts a payroll of 2,200, has the capacity to make 12,000 pounds of tread rubber per month and sells its products in 90 countries. It has three distribution centers in Brazil and seven in other countries, including the U.S., where Vipal Rubber Co. operates a 15,000 sq.-ft. warehouse in Miami. The other centers are located in Argentina, Chile, Panama, Mexico, Spain and Slovenia.
Vipal operates three factories in Nova Prata that produce precure tread rubber, tire repair materials, cements and other items used to repair and retread tires. It also recently opened a precure tread rubber plant in Tultitlan, Mexico, near Mexico City.
Vipal also has a compounding division that mixes rubber for tire manufacturing and other uses, a division that makes rubber flooring and a plastics division.
The company exhibits its awareness of its humble beginning by continuing its commitment to society and the environment through a wide scope of support.
"We try to search for kids in elementary school-kids who have above-normal intelligence," said Paludo, one of four brothers and five sisters working at the company. "We support them (thoughout their entire education). The only thing we ask is that when they get a job they (in turn) support two other students."
The company also has set up a plant at the state jail in Nova Prata for making tire patches. That gives inmates an opportunity to earn up to $200 a month and a chance to reduce the length of their sentences. Vipal has 20 such former inmates on the payroll working in its factories.
The firm also actively supports a local "soup house" that helps abandoned older people, orphans and the handicapped, and it backs a non-profit agency in Sao Paulo that deals with underprivileged children suffering from HIV/AIDS.
Vipal also believes that every company must be environmentally friendly, he said. Since 1988, for example, the company has collected all the waste it generates and recycles everything it can, including paper, metal, plastic and rubber. It even captures rainwater for use in its industrial operations and operates its own water treatment plant.