FINALIST: Industrial and Engineered Products and Materials
In 1975, when he was 23 years old, Gary Davis was forced into the role of business leader without any qualifications.
Davis’ father had died and left Aetna Plastics Corp. to his wife and son. The business was struggling and in need of a reboot, which Davis had to accomplish on the fly as the company’s new president.
Focusing on what he learned watching his father, Davis started with a reconfiguring of the company’s focus, leading to the elimination of product lines, a new market focus and the relocation of the business to a larger facility. As he moved along, Davis hired new employees and attempted to learn how to run a business.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing. In 1979, three key employees left to start their own business in competition with Aetna. But the challenges taught Davis to remain resourceful and use adversity as a learning tool.
Over the past several decades, Aetna has reinvented itself multiple times, altering product lines, market focus and employee relationships. Through it all, a number of employees have remained loyal to Davis - some remaining with the company for as long as Davis has been president. Davis has relied on the support of his long-standing employees as he has reinvented the company and evolved the lines of business.
When Davis took over the business, Aetna was a distributor of plastic sheet material, with a customer base composed largely of sign companies, display manufacturers and window companies. However, Davis saw the potential in other markets, and has grown the business through organic methods and acquisitions, including the launch of Process Piping Systems and the addition of Vanguard Plastics.
How to reach: Aetna Plastics Corp., www.aetnaplastics.com.