(From the Nov. 28, 2011, issue of Rubber & Plastics News)
AKRON—What's in a name? Everything.
For a rubber product company, everything means your reputation for producing a quality product, for good service, for a fair price, for honest business practices.
Read the stories about Gates Corp. in this issue and you'll see just how important a name means to this particular business. All that Gates stands for is summed up in its name: a tough competitor that's an innovator; an international operator; a manufacturer that knows its place in the markets it serves, and strives to anticipate its customers' needs before the clients even know themselves.
Gates has changed over its long history—a century of it, this year—and indeed wouldn't be around today if it hadn't.
The Denver-based manufacturer started when Charles Gates Sr. bought a company that made leather tires. It found its true calling in the business world in 1917 when the founder's brother, John, invented the rubber and fabric V-belt.
Gates until 1973 also was a tire maker. The general public might have known the company more for its famous Gates Learjet aircraft than its automotive belts, but it got out of that business in 1987. The firm also was involved in the famous effort of the rubber industry and government to create a synthetic replacement for natural rubber in World War II, and Gates for many years owned a piece of SR producer Copolymer.
The company became an important hose maker. But it is in belting that Gates really has made its mark.
Probably the most dramatic change was in ownership. After 85 years of control by the Gates family—and, by far, the largest privately held company in the rubber industry—the firm was sold to Tomkins P.L.C. in 1996. Tomkins subsequently was acquired by Onex Corp. and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board in 2010.
This year Gates has reorganized its corporate structure, essentially aiming to present, as one executive put it, “one face of Gates.” The company's leaders know Gates is a trusted name, and they've launched a program to emphasize characteristics summed up in that name.
Being Gates got them 100 years so far. Not many companies can say that.