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Born in Blackfoot, Idaho, Jon M. Huntsman, graduated at the top of his class in 1959 from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania before serving in the United States Navy. He later earned an M.B.A. from the University of Southern California and has since been awarded 13 honorary degrees by universities throughout America. In 1970, Huntsman left his post as president of Dolco Packaging, a Dow Chemical joint venture, to form Huntsman Container Corporation, credited with inventing the first plastic bowls, plates, utensils, meat trays, egg cartons, and a range of container products for the food industry, including the famous McDonald’s Big Mac container. After selling the container business, he founded Huntsman Chemical Corporation, known today on the NYSE as Huntsman Corporation, and served as its President, CEO, and Chairman until 2000, at which time his second-eldest son, Peter R. Huntsman, was appointed CEO. Today, Jon serves as Executive Chairman of the board of directors. Jon Huntsman has also founded numerous other enterprises, including the Huntsman Springs golf and residential resort in Driggs, Idaho, and Huntsman Gay Global Capital.
Huntsman’s distinguished service in politics includes GOP Utah National Committeeman from 1976 to 1980 and acting GOP State Chairman. In 1970, Huntsman served during the Nixon Administration as Associate Administrator (Chief Operating Officer) for Social and Rehabilitation Services, Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and throughout 1971, he served as Special Assistant and Staff Secretary to President Richard M. Nixon. He was close to Ronald Reagan and served as Reagan’s Campaign Chairman for Utah in 1980 and 1984. He assisted in George H. W. Bush’s campaigns in 1988 and 1992. In 1988, Utah Governor Norman Bangerter appointed him the State’s first Ambassador for Economic Development. Huntsman also served as Vice Chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and has fulfilled many roles as Chairman and/or a member of a number of national and international corporate, philanthropic, and institutional boards of directors.
From 1980 to 1983, Huntsman served his church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) as Mission President supervising the Washington, D.C. region and surrounding four states. Huntsman was later called to serve as a Seventy in the LDS Church. In 1995, Huntsman founded the Huntsman Cancer Institute, which today is the region’s only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center whose research and facilities Jon Huntsman and his Huntsman Cancer Foundation support as the primary funders. He endows the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University as well as number of facility and scholarship sponsorships at universities throughout the country. He authored the book, Winners Never Cheat: Everyday Values We Learned as Children (But May have Forgotten) in 2005. The second edition, entitled, Winners Never Cheat: Even in Difficult Times, was on The Wall Street Journal’s best-selling list. Huntsman’s lifetime philanthropy total is estimated to exceed $1.23 billion, including annual funding of the Huntsman World Senior Games, currently in its 25th year, the Huntsman Awards for Excellence in Education; and numerous additional programs and causes.
Today, Huntsman (www.huntsman.com) is in its 42nd year of operations and is a global manufacturer and marketer of differentiated chemicals whose operating companies manufacture products for a variety of global industries, including chemicals, plastics, automotive, aviation, textiles, footwear, paints and coatings, construction, technology, agriculture, health care, detergent, personal care, furniture, appliances, and packaging. Huntsman has approximately 12,000 employees and operates from multiple locations worldwide.
What is the secret to Huntsman’s success year after year?
A great spirit of teamwork and an attitude of loyalty and family unity. The business has taken substantial risks, but they have been measured carefully, and in virtually every case there has been success. Customers, suppliers, and employees show great confidence in the company because our name is on the door. Research and development is a critical part of our growth globally. Strategic divestitures and acquisitions have allowed our focus on the strongest product lines, strengthening the company over all.
Are there still strong opportunities for your business within the U.S. or will a lot of the growth come from overseas?
Our highest growth is in the United States. We export billions of dollars of products throughout the world. Notwithstanding our large manufacturing sites in over 50 countries, most of the products produced in these facilities are sold regionally. Quality and innovation coupled with an advanced technology management team has been our formula for success over more than four decades.
What impact has the Huntsman family and its cancer crusade had on the economy of Utah?
Huntsman has poured well over $1 billion into Utah charities and philanthropy. Most of these funds have been directed toward the Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI), which has some of its roots in 1970 when the Howard Hughes Medical Institute developed a relationship with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to examine genetic research with the aid of genealogy records of the Church. This medical research, followed up by clinical trials, has proven extremely successful today as a significant part of HCI’s goal of eradicating cancer. HCI includes substantial research facilities, a state-of-the-art major cancer hospital, outpatient clinics, and significant cancer education libraries and information outlets. HCI is a principal employer in the state of Utah with an annual payroll exceeding $100 million. HCI has helped launch multiple upstart businesses and collaborated in building additional cancer hospitals throughout the state.
Utah was fortunate to have Jon M. Huntsman Jr. serve as a two-term Governor. His team heavily promoted economic development, and during his tenure, Utah became the number one state for job creation in America. Today, that success continues: Utahns are well-educated, speak a multitude of languages, are hard working and thrifty, and enjoy a high quality of life. Thousands of out-of-state professionals find Utah to be an outstanding place to live and work.
Do you ever reflect on all you have achieved?
No. All of our enterprises have been focused on assisting and aiding mankind. It has never been our goal to permit profits to become the driving factor. Our objective has been focused on producing quality products and assisting the underserved. We have been appreciative of the opportunities available in Utah and elsewhere around the world that have allowed us to implement this strategic endeavor.•