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Don Aker, the man who in 1967 started what became one of the world’s largest tub and shower manufacturing facilities, Aker Plastics, has been named the 2003 recipient of the Composites Fabricators Association’s (CFA) Lifetime Achievement Award.
“”I got started in fiberglass in 1955,”” Aker said, who, like many CFA lifetime award winners, came from humble roots. “”I helped my brother-in-law Don Corl who just started making boats.””
By 1958 Aker was working for the Curtis-Wright Corporation and in 1960 set up a fiberglass plant in Elkhart, Indiana for the Calco Corporation. By 1965 he was a partner in American Formed Plastics before opening Aker in January of ’67 in Mishawaka, Indiana. “”It was a one-man family shop,”” he remembers.
Nineteen sixty nine saw the move to a 10,000 square-foot facility and a 12-person crew. In 1972, Aker left Mishawaka and set up shop in Plymouth, his home town. At the time, he built parts for RVs – fronts, backs, tanks, showers, and tubs. In 1975 he dropped the RV business to focus on tubs and showers for the residential market and sewage ejector tanks. With growth in the tub and shower market on a steady incline, Aker sold the sewage ejector business to A.K. Industries in 1981.
“”In 1994 I retired for the first time and sold my business to my children, Mark, Gary, and Jayne, and became a consultant,”” he said proudly. The business continued to grow as Aker opened an additional manufacturing facility in Plymouth and a new facility in Martinsburg, West Virginia, employing more than 800 workers.
Don Aker joins a growing list of previous lifetime award recipients: Robert Morrison, Wes Hoch, Everett Pearson, Brandt Goldsworthy, and Lowell Miles.
Aker will receive his award at COMPOSITES 2003 in Anaheim on October 3rd, and be the subject of an in depth historical profile in an upcoming edition of Composites Fabrication Magazine.
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