As the Rubber Capital of the World, Akron has been proud to say it's home to tire industry legends such as Harvey Firestone, founder of the Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., Frank Seiberling, co-founder of Goodyear, and Benjamin Franklin Goodrich, founder of B.F. Goodrich.
Yuan-Lin, Taiwan-which is home to three of the world's largest specialty tire manufacturers-may list as its legend the late Chin-Pao Yang, who had his hand in the founding of two of those firms.
A former elementary school teacher and self-taught engineer, Mr. Yang co-founded Hwa Fong Rubber Ind. Co. Ltd. in Yuan-Lin in 1945, and after selling his shares in the company, founded Kenda Rubber Ind. Co. Ltd. there in 1962. The third specialty tire manufacturer based in that city is Cheng Shin/Maxxis International.
``My father had a lot to do with the tire and rubber industry in Taiwan,'' said his youngest son, Jimmy Yang, president of American Kenda Rubber Ind. Co. Ltd. in Reynoldsburg and vice chairman of Taiwan-based Kenda Rubber.
``Taiwan is considered to be the specialty tire capital of the world. My dad was the legend for Taiwan's tire and rubber industry,'' Mr. Yang told Tire Business.
Today Kenda, which went public in 1991, is still 65-percent owned by the Yang family and is led, in addition to Jimmy, by its chairman and Jimmy Yang's elder brother, Ying Ming Yang. In addition, Jimmy's nephew, Hang Chang, serves as manager/marketing and product development radial tire for American Kenda in the U.S.
The company, which posted $273 million in sales in 2003, makes 160,000 bicycle tires daily accounting for 40 percent of revenues. Motorcycle and scooter tires make up 30 percent of sales; industrial tires, including lawn and garden and trailer, add 20 percent; and automotive tires contribute 10 percent. The company distributes its products worldwide.
Mr. Yang said his father, who died in 1996 at age 86, loved teaching but decided after a 10-year career he needed a more lucrative profession to feed his family of nine children. His mother, Yu-Shia Yang, is still going strong at 95.
While the elder Mr. Yang left the classroom, he never lost his belief in the importance of an education and saw that all of his children received college degrees, ``which is unusual in the old days of Taiwan,'' Jimmy Yang said. Three have bachelor's degrees, five earned master's degrees and one holds a doctorate. All of the advanced degrees were earned in the U.S.
``My dad was always more proud of the education he could offer his children rather than his success in business,'' Mr. Yang said.
The same could be said for his son. All three of Jimmy Yang's children are attending college: daughter Sophia is working on her MBA at Harvard University, son Eric is a senior at Elon University in Burlington, N.C., and daughter Stephanie is a sophomore at Northwestern University.