UTC honoring three who made mark here | timesfreepress.com

I’m just lucky that this inspirational man is part of my family.

I still remember running around the original factory in east Chattanooga to inflate the big plastic bags and trying to tie them together to make “balloon chairs” with my cousins.  I was always too shy to even say Harshadbhai’s name to his face!

UTC honoring three who made mark here | timesfreepress.com.

Starting a business isn’t for everybody.

Few have the stomach to put it all on the line, day after day. It’s not just the house, the car and the future that go back to the bank if the business fails.

A dream — the steely determination that drives an entrepreneur forward day after day — dies along with every bankrupt company.

Harshad Shah isn’t the first Chattanooga-area businessman to hit it big by taking risks and working hard. But he is among a group that the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga will honor April 12 for their entrepreneurial contributions to the region.

The College of Business will celebrate three of Chattanooga’s business pioneers as part of its ever-growing Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame.

Shah still works every day to keep the fires burning at Hamilton Plastics, the company he founded here after immigrating from India.

He started out making plastic bags that were roughly twice the quality of existing products using one-third of the material. Now he produces a wide variety of plastic bags, liners and films for the poultry and medical fields.

Though Shah is debt free and profitable after 26 years, he’s not quite ready to lean back and put his feet up.

“I’m spending more time at Hamilton Plastics because here you can put in a $1 million machine and do $4 million revenue to pay it off in five years,” said Shah, who also develops real estate as part of the 3H group.

THE RISK

Hamilton Plastics now generates $7 million in gross income each year, running 24 hours per day at its 300,000-square-foot factory on Amnicola Highway.

Shah is a founding director of a local bank, CapitalMark Bank and Trust, and recently launched a new division of Hamilton Plastics in Arizona.

But like any first-generation success story, the glow of today’s triumph can overshadow the heartburn of yesteryear.

After he received his degree in chemistry from Northeastern University, he managed research and development projects for Glad Bag division of Union Carbide in Chicago, and later moved to Dalton, Ga., trying to make ends meet.

Out of nowhere, the owner of a Michigan-based chemical testing company called Shah and offered to sell him the company for $30,000.

He moved the company from Michigan to East Ridge, then to east Chattanooga, and finally to Amnicola Highway.

“We started in 1986 with no employees, one machine and a future,” he said.

His 37,500-square-foot plant grew nearly tenfold and now supports 150 local jobs.

Shah still somehow finds time to work on a dozen hotels owned by 3H Group, in which he is a partner, and CapitalMark Bank and Trust is expected to hit $1 billion in assets after growing from an initial investment of $35 million.

“When we decided to put a company together, I decided if I made a couple hundred thousand dollars, I’d be a rich man,” he said.

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