– A Legendary Member and the Founder of SACC Texas
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your career path?
I am born in Stockholm, Sweden. After graduating chemical engineering from RIT (or as we say in Swedish, civilingenjör i kemi från KTH), I started my career at Kema Nord in Sundsvall in the manufacturing of PVC resin. From there on, I worked for EKA Kemi in Bohus, where I established a chemical factory in Maastricht, the Netherlands, making organic chemicals for the pharmaceutical industry. I ended up living in Maastricht for two years. Then I was recruited by Swedish Match to work for them in the South East Asian region as regional and business development manager, stationed in Manila, Philippines. It was a very “interesting” time as I arrived shortly after senator Aquino had been assassinated by president Marcos with all the turmoil that followed, culminating with the ouster of the Marcos family in February 1986.
My wife and I, Orpha, who I met at Swedish Match in the Philippines, left the Philippines the month before Marcos ouster and we arrived in Houston, TX in January 1986. I took up a position as president of a subsidiary to a Swedish company that by some strange reason had established themselves in Houston, TX, which I am very grateful for today as my wife and I love Houston and Texas.
In 1988 I founded my own company, Champion Fiberglass, which today has become the leading manufacturer of fiberglass conduit in USA and Canada. Our production facilities are in Spring, TX and we just completed a new addition, a third manufacturing line that is our largest investment so far. We distribute our conduit all over USA and Canada as well as internationally. We have done projects in Taiwan, Colombia and so forth. We just shipped products to an installation in Trinidad/Tobago.
As soon as we arrived in Houston, we became active in the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce, or SACC as we all say. At that time, all chambers over the United States were loosely organized with no central organization. I soon became active on the board and in 1992 and 1993 (I think it was those two years), I served as president of SACC Houston. I had the interesting experience of spending a whole weekend on a cruise ship in the Caribbean discussing the formation of SACC USA while my wife and daughter enjoyed swimming and sun bathing. Our most contentious issue was how to distribute the two funds that SACC New York had received from Swedish companies which they were very protective about, if not to say selfish to a large extent. At the same time, we took the step to reach out to the Dallas chapter of SACC and also to see that Austin established their own chapter and that we all formed an umbrella organization SACC Texas, in order to make us stronger as a group. Our vice president, Richard Koehler, was very active in those actions and I was very pleased to see that Richard succeeded me as president. Richard was also instrumental in setting up a regular newsletter and to establish different levels of membership, something still in effect today. Richard was very instrumental to make sure that SACC Houston became an business organization and I am very grateful for his great work.