Keith Thomas, president of R.D. Abbott Co. Inc., has been in the rubber industry for 24 years, but he feels like a relative newbie compared to some of the veterans of the Los Angeles area rubber sector.
He moved out west 20 years ago and was befriended by Jerry Wicker, owner of R.D. Abbott at the time. The firm has been a distributor for Lord Corp., Thomas' former employer, since 1958.
Thomas said he was introduced to the Los Angeles Rubber Group, where he met Howard Vipperman of Vip Rubber Co. Inc.; William Krames of Santa Fe Rubber Products Inc.; and Karen Kelly of R & S Processing Co. Inc.
“They became my de facto family, and there was no going back,” Thomas said.
R.D. Abbott is a supplier to the rubber industry, representing material suppliers and other rubber-related firms throughout North America. It has two facilities in the South, two in the North, its headquarters in Cerritos, Calif., and is establishing a location in Mexico.
“I think there's good reason for us to maintain our headquarters here,” Thomas said, “primarily because our business is around our people. Without our people we're just a name on the wall. If we picked up and moved to Arizona, we wouldn't be the same company. If we all agreed to move together, I'm all for it. The trick is a lot of folks do like living here. The weather's pleasant, and they have a lot of deep roots.
R.D. Abbott's business is a bit different than finished rubber goods makers or material suppliers, as the firm probably has a higher percentage of professional employees, he said. More than half of its employees have degrees in chemistry or engineering, and Southern California has one of the better education systems in the world.
When we're looking for chemists and engineers to hire, we've been very fortunate,” Thomas said. “From the labor point of view, finding good, hard working people is not as difficult as maybe some other parts of the country. From a people point of view, it's not just the availability; it's also the culture here. It's a very innovative culture.”
This video and story came from an industry roundtable that Rubber & Plastics News hosted at R.D. Abbott Co. Inc.'s headquarters in Cerritos, Calif. To see complete coverage, including more videos, stories, exclusive online content and a photo gallery, go to www.rubbernews.com/California.