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Family tradition continues at belt manufacturer

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The fifth generation has arrived at Passaic Rubber Co.

James Leach, son of co-owner Jeff Leach, began working on Aug. 1 at the manufacturer of a variety of rubber goods. He serves as vice president of operations with an emphasis on manufacturing. His primary role is to ensure that things run smoothly, according to his father, the chairman and chief operating officer of the company.

Jack Mathey, the 15-year-old son of co-owner J.D. Mathey, president and CEO of the Wayne, N.J.-based company, also joined the company in a part-time capacity for the summer. He mostly worked on the production side before he returned to school. He's the fifth generation of his family to become involved with the firm.

During down time in his school schedule and summer breaks, he probably will return to continue his training before he eventually heads to college.

That's the road James Leach traveled to get where he is today.

"When I was 14, I got introduced to the business assisting on the manufacturing side. I learned a lot under (production manager) Glenn Kuras."

"I had him do everything in the plant ... some of the messiest jobs in the place," Jeff Leach said. He continued working at the factory through college.

James Leach knew he eventually wanted to get into manufacturing when, like his father, he went to Purdue University, where he picked up a dual degree in engineering and business.

Upon graduation in 2009, however, Passaic wasn't in a position to hire him, his father said. But James Leach already was considering other positions and joined Kraft Foods as part of its Excell Logistics team.

In his third year with Kraft, he said, "I saw the potential of coming to Passaic ... where new ideas would be beneficial."

He married his wife, Jill, in June and started working at Passaic on Aug. 1. "He has helped revitalize the company with new ideas and new enthusiasm," Jeff Leach said, adding that he brings a fresh approach to the business.

James Leach has a strong computer background, his father said, which has benefited the firm, especially in terms of marketing the company, renovating its website and producing new brochures. "It's important to refresh the look but keep the value," he said.

Jeff Leach came aboard after graduating from Purdue in 1997, and J.D. Math-- ey, with a background in sales on Wall Street and in the medical and computer software fields, joined the company in 1995. They eventually replaced their fathers at the helm and, after a difficult start, the business has expanded into a successful mid-sized company.