Bolstered by the continuity of four generations of family leadership, Lacks has grown in each subsequent decade by capitalizing on extensive research and development efforts and building on forward-thinking ideas to produce new processes and product innovations for today. The heart of the organization remains its employees, whose dedication and loyalty continues to make the family business a viable and self-sustaining operation.

 

Two Men — One Dream

The automobile and the American dream have been intertwined for more than a century, so it was with considerable ambition and great hopes that a father and son embraced the entrepreneurial spirit 50 years ago and sought to make a living by selling manufactured parts to the auto industry.

John P. Lacks was a salesman representing Holland-based REM Die Casting, Inc. when he recruited his son, Richard Lacks Sr., a paint salesman, to form Metalac Corp. in 1961 to do basic machining of REM products. A year later, encouraged by their early success, the pair purchased Ace Plating to provide additional metal finishing services and, eventually, Dec-o-lac to provide decorative painting capabilities. Within the decade, their business had grown to the point where they were able to make the decision to buy REM and, ultimately, to bring the various organizations under the Lacks umbrella to one location on Cascade Road in Grand Rapids.

 

Organic Growth

In the beginning, the Lacks' operation was primarily sales-driven, but competitive pressures and an appetite for growth over the years led the company to become increasingly process-driven and attuned to the changing needs of the automotive market and, as the 1970s dawned, would cause the company to seek new opportunities. Lacks, for example, began to experiment in plastic plating through its Monroe Street facilities as early as the late 1960s.

In 1973, the third generation of the family became involved in the business when Richard Lacks Jr. joined the company after graduating from Western Michigan University with a marketing degree. Seeking to understand the fundamentals of the operations, he started in production control and scheduling, an educational approach that was mirrored by his young brother, Kurt, when he joined the company's estimating department four years later.

 

From Die Cast to Plastic

By the mid-1970s, the advent of injection molding and Detroit's desire for lighter components prompted the company to shift away from metal fabrication to plastics. Apparent that the days of zinc die cast parts for bumper trim and grilles were numbered, the Lacks looked to new technology to protect their market position in automotive industry.

This shift led to a variety of process innovations in plating, painting and molding, from electro-less plating to the plating of high-impact plastic parts, and led the company to expand its Saranac operations to keep pace with the quickly changing needs of the automotive industry. Not even a catastrophic fire in 1978 could abate the company's growth and evolution.

 

Financially Stable

While much of the industry was slowed by the economy in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Lacks was able to continue to grow and expand due to conservative fiscal management and an ability to remain profitable even in recessionary times. To better manage the company in an era of burgeoning growth, the company built individual injection molding, plating and painting facilities — all managed from a campus-like setting. The transition into the plating of plastics was complete by the beginning of the 1990s when the company's sales accelerated due to the success of its chrome-plated grilles and wheel covers, as well as expansion into the European market. Lacks opened several new plants, all within a five-mile area in Kentwood, then built its first out-of-state venture — a molding facility in the Greenville, South Carolina, area — in order to satisfy customer requirements.

 

New Products, New Customers

With the deaths of John P. Lacks and Richard Lacks Sr. in April and May 1999, respectively, at the ages of 94 and 73, Richard Lacks Jr. assumed the titles of president and CEO while Kurt Lacks assumed the positions of executive vice president and chairman of the board. This led to a new direction, with Lacks Enterprises splitting into three separate business units — Lacks Trim Systems, Lacks Wheel Trim Systems and Plastic Plate — to better focus on specific products and marketing. Being a growing, dynamic organization, the company was eager to develop new customers in new markets, and the ongoing investment in product development would produce important advances in new processes and technologies to benefit the customer. By the turn of the century, Lacks was still breaking new ground, albeit figuratively speaking, as the company began promoting Spinelle™ Metal Finish, the latest in a long-line of process innovations that include High Impact Plated Plastic (HIPP-140™) and Chromtec™ wheels. The new century also saw the firm welcome the arrival of the fourth generation of the Lacks family into the fold in 2006, with the addition of Ryan Lacks, son of Richard Lacks, Jr., and K.V. Lacks, son of Kurt Lacks.

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