All things start with a small seed, as did this ever-growing joint-venture company. The conception was in December of 1980, when the CEO of Globe Industries (Robert Christopher) was invited to Japan to meet with the purchasing departments of Honda, Nissan, and Toyota. The reason? Those three companies were set to build automobile manufacturing plants in the United States, and would need suppliers of acoustic sound deadening materials.
The major supplier of these products in Japan was the Nihon Tokushu Toryo Co, Ltd. Mr. Nakanishi, the owner and president of Nihon Tokushu Toryo Co, Ltd., was asked to recommend an American supplier. Sharing an acoustic technology agreement with a European company, Nihon Tokushu Toryo Co, Ltd. and Globe Industries were on common ground so it made sense for Nihon Tokushu Toryo Co, Ltd. to partner with Globe to create UGN.
After a stringent review, Chicago-based Globe Industries began to supply dampeners, absorbers, and barriers to Honda in Marysville, Ohio, and then the others as their plants became operational.
As demand grew each month with the post recession of 1979-82, the demand in America burgeoned for automobiles. It was apparent an additional plant would be required to meet the ever-increasing sales of the Japanese manufacturers. The gestation period of the December 1980 conception was over…the joint venture was at last birthed by two very cooperative parents: Nihon Tokushu Toryo Co, Ltd. and Globe Industries.
Globe Industries provided an empty industrial building in Chicago Heights, Illinois, and the installation of manufacturing equipment was underway. Car floor pan dampers were the first product, followed by foam composites, cotton molded absorbers.
After production had progressed, an official ribbon cutting was scheduled with local government officials and interested citizens attended the gala event on March 27, 1987.
From the start, the venture was profitable, with sales increasing each month. Soon Toyota and Nissan had operating plants in the U.S., supplied by UGN. As other products were being needed by the Japanese plants, a second operation was commenced, named after its parent, UGN II. It made headliners and package trays.
One important benefit of the creation of UGN was its employment of approximately 350 associates at the Chicago Heights location and 90 at UGN II the company was a good neighbor bringing not only jobs to previously high-unemployment areas, but many services and materials were purchased from local businesses.
UGN was managed by a board of directors consisting of five members from Nihon Tokushu Toryo Co, Ltd., and five from Globe Industries. The Globe CEO was the UGN president from 1986-95, with manufacturing managed by Jim Christopher, marketing by John Christopher, and Peter Anthony as lead salesman.
It was Peter who did much to build the image of UGN with its customers. His diligent and effective work led to him being elected president and CEO. Under his direction, UGN continued to grow, adding plants as the business grew.
In 1995, Globe Industries and its 50 percent ownership of UGN, owned by Kingdon Gould and Robert Christopher, was sold to Rieter Holding AG, a major acoustic products supplier in Europe. The new partnership of Nihon Tokushu Toryo Co, Ltd. and Rieter Holding AG—now known as Autoneum—helped the company continue to expand and diversify.
And, as the drumbeat of the company that started with a hurried trip to Japan in late 1980 continues to beat, what of its originators?
Mr. Nakanishi, the man with the original vision and his able assistant, Mr. Suzuki, have both passed on, but helped leave a lasting legacy of jobs, dignity, and useful work. The Americans, Kingdon Gould and Robert Christopher, spend their time today in charitable work.