Who is The Entrepreneur: Tom Brady

Forbes

February 6, 2012

By Gregg Fairbrothers

Dr. Thomas Brady ’66 Th’68 is Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Plastic Technologies, Inc. (PTI), and oversees the operations of six other PTI companies engaged in specialty manufacturing, advanced product development and technology licensing. Founded in 1985, PTI and its companies employ 200 people worldwide and PTI is recognized internationally for its expertise in plastic packaging technology. Prior to founding PTI, Dr. Brady was Vice President of Plastics Technology for Owens-Illinois, Inc. where he led the development of the first PET plastic soft container and directed the technical activities for O-I’s plastic product lines. Dr. Brady was also founding chair of the Northwest Ohio Regional Technology Alliance (RTA), which was eventually merged with the Regional Growth Partnership. Catalina Gorla and I are still trying to figure out who is the entrepreneur, and Dr. Brady looks to have all the qualifications.

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Catalina: You started PTI in 1985 after working for Owen-Illinois. What was it like deciding to go on your own and then what did it take for you to make the leap?

Tom: I was first exposed to entrepreneurship in an undergraduate engineering course at Dartmouth where we were presented with a “gap” in the commercial world and where we were asked to fill that gap by proposing a solution, developing a prototype process or product, and then selling that solution as a commercially viable business. I went on to the University of Michigan where I earned a PhD in plastic materials engineering in 1972. After graduation, I joined Owens-Illinois where I was almost immediately asked to lead the technical development of a family-sized plastic carbonated soft drink container which wasn’t technically or economically possible in metal or glass, but which was theoretically possible in plastic—another “gap” in the commercial world. By the early 1980s we had established an entirely new business making PET (polyester) containers for high performance packaging applications, but it wasn’t long before the soft drink brand owners began exploring ways to save money by taking the bottle-making business in-house. A bottling company approached me and asked me to help them to manufacture their own bottles. By that time my wife Betsy and I had established a comfortable life and we were raising three children ages 6-13. But in 1985 the PET industry was new. It was growing at double digit rates and there were few technology experts in the world—it was another “gap” for me to fill. Staying with Owens-Illinois and going with the bottling company were both attractive choices, but in the end I decided to start my own company with a focus on PET container technology.

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