Kathy Day, for The Rancho Santa Fe Review, wrote this article about Tom Gildred being named one of Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneurs of the Year. Following this news story, Tom was named a finalist in the National Entrepreneur of the Year awards and is currently up for consideration for the nationwide award. In addition to running successful business, Tom has a passion for making a difference in his community.
Titled: Tom Gildred, Entrepreneur of the Year
For the last five years or so, RSF’s Tom Gildred has been focusing on making a difference in San Diego. It’s something that runs in his family. With a successful business in FMT Consultants and his latest project – Emerald Textiles – whirring along, he has put his time into serving as president of the San Diego Museum of Art, working with Irwin Jacobs on the Plaza de Panama proposal for Balboa Park and serving on the board for Sharp Healthcare.
It was in the latter role that he learned a lot about the business of running a hospital and became particularly interested in the impact that hospital linens have on patients and the staff who risk exposure to infectious diseases.
With a background as an entrepreneur, his interest was piqued, and two years ago he began looking into the healthcare linen business and didn’t like what he saw – heavy use of water, energy and chemicals; old, inefficient equipment, and disregard for health regulations designed to guard against infection. That was enough to inspire him to see what he could do.
“When you are in a weakened state, you want to know the linens come from a place that’s clean and compliant,” Gildred said. “You wouldn’t serve food out of a dirty kitchen.”
They started “with a blank piece of paper in March 2010 – no customers, no facility,” he recalled. “It’s been quite a ride.”
That ride led Emerald Textiles to the recent honor of being named one of Ernst & Young’s “2012 Entrepreneurs of the Year.” (Coincidentally, Gildred started his business career at Ernst & Young, although his first job was a summer of picking up trash at SeaWorld.)
Along the way to opening the laundry in San Diego, with a total project cost of $20 million, Gildred identified partners like another well-known San Diegan, Bob Payne and his family.
Then they had to find the people to run the day-to-day operations and hire a staff that now tops 275 and runs two shifts a day. He and his team (who he emphasized really deserve the award) also had to purchase, design, get permits for and equip a 77,000-square-foot facility in Otay Mesa – an Enterprise Zone designed to spur the city’s economy — and buy all the linens and trucks to transport them. Oh yeah, and find customers.
Somehow, they managed to open six months later. Despite the rough economic times, he said, with the right people, “We were fortunate to have the pieces come together at the right time.”
And they did it with an eye to saving energy and water by spending on their equipment, Gildred added, noting that their cleaning process takes one gallon less per pound of linens than others in the business in San Diego. That’s a significant savings since they clean about 40 million pounds of linen a year.
They also invested in an energy reclamation-heat transfer process that saves about 750,000 therms of natural gas annually – and turns out cleaner linens. SDG&E and the California Public Utilities Commission have both honored the company for its efforts.
Today, Gildred and his team, which includes people who knew the industry from the inside as well as a controller who came from the biotech industry, are looking at expansion into the Los Angeles and Orange County markets. When they go north, they’ll invest in new facilities, too.
Emerald Textiles already serves Sharp Healthcare, Scripps Health, UCSD Medical System, Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, and Kaiser in San Diego and Orange Counties.
But while Gildred acknowledges he’s turned into a bit of a workaholic in recent years, he is all about making San Diego a better place as his family has done over three generations. His parents Philip and Lyn Gildred, like him, are Rancho Santa Fe residents, and he’s close to his two sisters and their families.
His father grew up in Mission Hills; his mom in the Chula Vista-Bonita area before moving to Point Loma. Now their son is president of The Gildred Companies, a real estate company managing over a million square feet of industrial and business parks that’s been in business for 85 years.
FMT Consultants, an Enterprise Resource Planning software company he founded in 1995, has done well, Gildred said, “providing me the opportunity to be more engaged in the community, which I see as my responsibility.” He believes strongly that people should take time to do what they can.