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Prent Founder Jack Pregont Dies

Prent Corporation is saddened to announce the death of Jack E. Pregont, 85, founder of the company and Chairman Emeritus. 

“The passing of my father is a sad loss for this company and my family,” says his son, Joseph T. Pregont, Prent President and CEO.

Jack Pregont founded the privately held thermoform plastic company in 1967. Fifteen years later he founded GOEX Extrusion, an extruder of plastic sheet and rolls stock. 

Today Prent Corporation is the leading global manufacturer of thermoform packaging for the medical industry and a fast-growing leader in packaging for the electronics and consumer industries. Headquartered in Janesville, WI, USA, Prent employs over 2,000 people at nine facilities in Janesville WI, Singapore, China, Malaysia, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Denmark and Arizona.

Over the past half century, Jack Pregont was recognized as one of the founders of modern thermoforming. 

In 1980 he and six others created the “Thermoforming Institute” of the Society of Plastic Industry (SPI) and he served as the organization’s first Chairman. 

In 1989 he was named “Thermoformer of the Year” by the Society of Plastic Engineers (SPE) and in 2007 the Thermoforming Division of SPE honored him with their “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his significant contributions to the plastics industry 

Thanks to Jack’s leadership, Prent is renowned today for its design, engineering and production excellence. Since its founding, the company’s garnered dozens of packaging awards, including 15 WorldStar packaging awards in the “medical or pharmaceutical packaging” categories, more than any other company in the world.

Today, Prent counts among its customers nearly every major medical device maker in the world, as well as electronics industry giants which Prent supplies thermoforms used from chip making to finished consumer products.

Many of Prent’s business breakthroughs came from Jack’s belief that true thermoforming excellence could only come from controlling the entire thermoforming process including machines, material and manpower. This vertical integration led to the establishment of:

• Complete in house design and tooling capabilities.

• A Plastic Extrusion operation in 1982. Not satisfied with the capabilities of commercially available plastic stock to perform to the demands of his complex designs, Jack started extruding his own plastic. Today, Prent’s original Extrusion Department is a separate company (GOEX Corp) and one of the largest sheet manufacturers in North America.

• Innovative human resource policies which cemented his strong commitment to the employees who helped make his company such a success. Jack believed in paying fair wages, providing advancement opportunities, intensive training and generous benefits. In 1968, he developed the Mini-Shift employment concept, since copied by many manufacturers and featured in business publications. When a local newspaper mistakenly ran a Prent Help Wanted ad under “part-time work” rather than “full-time.” hundreds of applicants were waiting in the parking lot the next morning. So, he decided to create a four-hour, part-time production position, calling it a Mini-Shift. Among the generous benefits was the ability to take the entire summer off to be with their school children, plus take time off for family events. Today, the Mini-Shift is still going strong and is a highly sought employment opportunity. In 1977, Jack also began an employee profit sharing plan, which has benefitted hundreds of loyal employees.

The son of a retail baker in Janesville, WI, Jack Pregont pointed to 1948 as the year his interest in plastics first began. A neighbor gave the teenage boy a stack of old Popular Mechanics. One magazine article in particular caught his attention: it was about how celluloid ping-pong balls were made. 

“As far back as I can remember,” he said, “I was scrounging around for pieces of plastic to mold. My mother’s kitchen oven was my heat source and she complained about that for the rest of her life!” 

Most of his early projects were bakery related, which evolved into a line of mail order cake decorating novelties. 

Later, when he was developing a thermoformed plastic merry-go-round, the new owners of the Janesville Paper Box Company suggested he develop plastic packaging for them on a commission basis. In return he would be allowed to use their forming equipment to produce his merry-go-round. Within three years, the plastics department exceeded the box business. 

Frustrated, however, by the lack of time to thermoform his projects, Jack left the company. But just as he was ready to strike out on his own, the Janesville-based Parker Pen Company asked Jack to join its executive training program. 

He did, and never regretted the decision. “During my seven years with Parker, I gained invaluable experience traveling and doing everything from sales promotion to working with Parker’s automation subsidiary,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Jack continued to moonlight in the basement of his parent’s bakery thermoforming current fads for birthday cake decorations and selling plans for a simple thermoforming machine—through ads in Popular Mechanics. 

By 1966, the profits he earned selling Batman cake decorations allowed Jack to buy an old 10,000 sq. ft. silo factory. He acquired two beat up forming machines from the Rubber Maid Company junk pile, updated them to a competitive level and cleaned up the building. Finally in November 1967, Prent Corporation was open for business with 15 employees. 

Success came quickly to Jack. After three years, Prent’s employment doubled and Jack was able to establish model and tool departments. 

After four years, Jack received his first packaging award, beginning a nearly 50 year track record of major packaging achievements, including 15 prestigious World Stars.

After just six years in business—with sales doubling every year and employment reaching 100— Jack was running out of room in his old silo factory. By 1974, he had constructed and moved into a new state-of-the-art thermoforming facility. 

In 1985, Jack retired and his son Joseph T. Pregont became President. Today, Joe’s children— Joseph II, Rachael and Michael—have all followed in their grandfather and father’s footsteps and are actively involved in leading Prent and GOEX well into the future.