AirBoss of America Corp. is far from the company that was founded as Iatco Industries Inc. way back in 1989. That firm was started with the hopes of making its way in the tire industry by marketing a niche product that basically consisted of molded rubber tread segments that were attached to a rim.
After changing its name officially in 1994, AirBoss has been a work in progress ever since to become the diversified and successful business it is today. And P. Gren Schoch, one of the company founders and now chairman and CEO of the Newmarket, Ontario-based firm, is a big reason for that success.
That is a big part of the reason Rubber & Plastics News has chosen Schoch as its 2019 Rubber Industry Executive of the Year. From that little niche airless tire product, AirBoss now boasts major rubber product businesses in defense and automotive, and also is in the top tier of custom rubber compounders in North America.
And under the direction of Schoch and his management team, AirBoss isn't afraid to invest back into the business—it has a laundry list of major capital projects currently underway—or change direction when warranted.
That philosophy goes back to the beginning of the firm. Schoch said the group almost went broke trying to develop the tire, but then moved onto making rubber compounds. Then it branched out via acquisition into rubber boots and tracks, a unit that later focused on defense. The purchase of Flexible Products provided a foothold into the automotive supply business.
Even now, change is imminent, as AirBoss' defense business is to be merged with Critical Solutions International Inc., a Charleston, S.C.-based supplier of a number of products for the military in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Schoch said AirBoss hasn't been an overnight success, but a company that has had consistent growth brought on by the hard work of its team.
He has earned respect from his management team. One called him humble, open to new ideas and possessing the best business instincts he's ever seen. Others said he knows the business inside and out, doesn't beat around the bush, and can be hands-on or let others take the reins of a project. They further said Schoch operates with a sense of urgency, but yet never panics and still can focus on the long term.
In short, Schoch possesses all the traits that make a leader qualified to be RPN's Executive of the Year.