At the age of 58, with only an eighth-grade education, Burt started a small business that has since grown into a multi-million-dollar conglomerate of companies. “I have always strived to achieve the goals that I set for myself,” Burt had said. “Without putting your nose to the grindstone and working hard, you cannot ultimately reach those goals and enjoy success.”
In the mid ‘70s, Burt, who owned a swimming pool liner manufacturing company, came up with an inspiration: If a vinyl liner kept water inside a pool, why couldn’t it keep water out, too? From that simple premise, the Duro-Last Roofing System, headquartered in Saginaw, Mich., was created in 1978. Since then, Duro-Last has become an industry leader in the manufacture of prefabricated, thermoplastic, single-ply roofing systems.
Burt’s vision for Duro-Last was to use factory prefabrication to provide quality-assured products. By producing 80 to 85 percent of membrane seaming in a controlled environment, the probability of rooftop installation error is greatly reduced. Architects, specifiers, consultants, contractors, building owners and facility mangers can have peace-of-mind knowing that only 15 to 20 percent of the seaming is done in the field.
Beginning in 1987, under Burt’s leadership, Duro-Last began an expansion campaign that would eventually lead to the establishment of additional manufacturing facilities in Grants Pass, Ore; Jackson, Miss.; and Sigourney, Iowa. Burt’s related companies — Plastatech Engineering Ltd., Tri-City Vinyl Inc., Oscoda Plastics Inc., TIP-TOP Screw Manufacturing Inc. and Creative Impressions Printing, Silkcreen & Embroidery — have also enjoyed tremendous success in their related markets.
Burt has received numerous honors including the Vision of Free Enterprise Award, presented by the Saginaw County Chamber of commerce in 1998, as well as recognition in 1991 as the Entrepreneur of the Year in Michigan. In 1987, then-Governor Jim Blanchard presented Burt with the Businessman of the Year Award. Duro-Last also received the State of Michigan New Product Award in 1986.
Those who knew him say that Burt was a kind and adventurous man who enjoyed life to the fullest. He was an avid outdoorsman who loved hunting and fishing with his countless friends and family. He considered his Duro-Last employees and colleagues part of his family.
John R. Burt leaves behind wife Mildred; five children — Carol Stuhr, Sharon Sny, Connie Moeller, Kathy Allen and Jack Burt; and several grand and great-grandchildren. Sharon Sny, Kathy Allen and Jack Burt continue to be active in the management of Duro-Last.