-- Milestones include Unrivaled Customer Service, Ground-breaking Trends in Surfaces
Diverse Business Operating Units and a Global Presence --
TEMPLE, Texas, Feb. 28, 2006 – Wilsonart International celebrates its 50th anniversary during the month of April. The company, which started with a handful of employees in an industry crowded with competitors, has evolved into an undisputed industry leader in the surfacing arena, spearheading new product introductions across multiple categories and employing thousands of people in the United States and around the world. A look back at the company history reveals how founder Ralph Wilson, Sr.’s, original plans were to start a small company that allowed him to fish four times a week. His recreational plans fell to the wayside as the company developed into a global leader.
What follows is a brief look at Wilsonart International’s first 50 years, which includes a snapshot of the early years, industry firsts, brilliant business maneuvers, new product introductions and company growth:
Humble Beginnings, Present-day Leader
Founded in 1956 in Temple, Texas, as a hobby by Wilson after he retired from a California-based laminate business that he helped to found, Wilsonart (then known as the Ralph Wilson Plastics Company) originally manufactured only high pressure laminate on a single press in a small warehouse. Those first orders were delivered to customers in a 1953 Buick. By the end of the year, the Temple plant was running 24 hours a day.
More than four decades later the company has four key business operating units that consist of Wilsonart® Laminate, Wilsonart® Adhesives, Wilsonart® Solid Surface and Wilsonart® Flooring.
Distribution Geared for Success
A prescient business entrepreneur, Wilson wove the threads of uncompromising customer service into the fabric of his newly founded company to set it apart from competitors. His brilliant strategy worked. Company policy stated that laminate orders were to be delivered anywhere in the country in 10 days or less. To ensure success, the company purchased, and still maintains, its own fleet of trucks in North America staffed with two drivers apiece for timely delivery.
Additionally, a warehouse distribution system, now totaling 23 facilities in North America, was developed to maintain a vast inventory of products near customers everywhere. To this day, these business practices serve as the company’s foundation and are also carried out by the 100-plus distributors worldwide.
Setting Trends, Diversifying, Expanding Globally
Staying abreast of design and lifestyle trends has allowed Wilsonart to anticipate market needs and introduce best-selling product lines and altogether new categories. Recent industry firsts include new Wilsonart HD High Definition Laminate, which looks and feels like no other surface on the market. It is the first-ever laminate to feature a rich multi-dimensional look with three times the industry standard in wear resistance.
New product categories in laminate flooring, adhesives and solid surface eventually spurred successful new business units, solidifying Wilsonart’s position as a market leader.
Additionally, Ralph Wilson, Sr.’s house, now known as The Wilson House, was purchased by the company and restored in 1997. The house was recognized on a national level for the extraordinary design of the interior, which had an impact on the design of subsequent structures and the employment of cutting-edge laminate technology, such as post-forming laminate around countertop edges. In 1998 it was awarded National Landmark status by the Texas Historical Commission and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a significant architectural structure. The Wilson House is the first 20th century vernacular structure less than 50 years old to have ever been nominated.
Said Wilsonart President Bill DiGaetano, “Our company’s 50th anniversary is a great milestone. When you sit down and consider what Ralph Wilson, Sr., accomplished, you can’t help but be both proud and impressed at his vision, leadership and innovation. Today, Wilsonart employees around the globe carry on Ralph’s forward-thinking legacy.”
Timeline / Milestones
- Ralph Wilson, Sr., founds the Ralph Wilson Plastics Company (now Wilsonart).
- Ralph Wilson Plastics (RWP) becomes a publicly held corporation in 1964 with an initial offering of 290,000 shares at $15.
- Regional metro centers open around the country enormously growing distribution.
- Adhesives, Chemsurf® Performance Laminate, High Wear Laminate, Decorative Metals join the Wilsonart family.
- Ralph Wilson, Sr., passes away on January 31, 1972.
- Additional regional distribution centers open nationwide and product lines are expanded.
- Laminate Flooring, Solid Surface, Custom Laminates and other products are introduced.
- RWP officially becomes known as Wilsonart International, Inc., in 1995.
- Large-scale international growth begins.
- Ralph Wilson, Sr.’s house (The Wilson House) is purchased by the company and restored in 1997. In 1998 it was awarded National Landmark status by the Texas Historical Commission and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a significant architectural structure.
- Wilsonart becomes part of Illinois Tool Works, Inc., (NYSE: ITW), Glenview, Ill., a $10 billion diversified manufacturer of highly engineered components and industrial systems, which acquired the company in 1999.
- International growth continues as foreign markets expand.
Wilsonart International, based in Temple, Texas, is a leading manufacturer of decorative surfacing products, including Wilsonart® Laminate. This year, the company celebrates its 50th year in business. For more information about Wilsonart Laminate or any Wilsonart product, please call the Customer Service Hotline at 800-433-3222. Consumers can also visit www.countertop.com and professional can visit www.wilsonart.com.
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