Brilliance since 1973
Investment in a new powder coating facility.
Investment in product development facilities and social facilities for personnel.
Neonelektro 40 years. The new spin-off company, Flexbright, started manufacturing innovative LED lighting film.
A Sales Manager was hired to ensure sustainable growth.
On 4 June, a subsidiary was founded in St Petersburg, Russia. Pekka Makkonen took responsibility for starting the operations in Russia.
An investment in a computer controlled channel letter bender.
Neonelektro and Neontarvike were merged, and Heikki Kantola and Pekka Makkonen became partners in the company. The agenda for the following years was to develop and implement a profitable globalisation plan.
Jari built new premises for Neonelektro, comprising 1,500 square metres. Kangasala municipality awarded the industrial facility the “Building project of the year in Kangasala” title in 2008.
Things had turned full circle and Jari bought all of Pentti Rahila’s shares in Neonelektro, now leading both Neonelektro and Neontarvike.
Kaj Lundqvist retired at the beginning of the year.
Jari took over Neontarvike.
“In fact, Jari’s life-long experience in the field is just as long as mine: he’s been around ever since he was born and the company was founded,” says Kaj.
The apple never fell very far from the tree in this neon family: well before the age of 10, Jari often built light cabinets and other small items like penholders from the waste acrylic he found in the company’s bins, and sold the items to his friends. Right after completing his A-levels in the spring 1983, he started working for Neontarvike.
Kaj’s son Jari Lundqvist started working for Neontarvike right after completing his A-levels. At the same time, his plans of further education fell through due to the needs of the company.
Kaj Lundqvist realised his long-term dream and focused solely on manufacturing neon tubes. He sold all of his shares in Neonelektro to Pentti Rahila and went on to start one more company of his own, Neontarvike Oy. In the early 1990s, Neontarvike became the biggest manufacturer of neon tubes in Finland.
With Pentti Rahila at the helm, the company embarked on a period of strong growth. At its largest, the company had nearly 30 employees. During the recession the headcount was reduced, but the company survived: to this day, Neonelektro has not had a single accounting period showing a loss.
Pentti never went for the quick buck. Indeed, when he led the company, the plant and equipment were always up to date and it always exceeded any regulatory safety requirements.
The new hall was ready and fitted with state-of-the-art machinery. There was only on thing missing: work.
“It is strange how the same thing always happens. You build something new and move to new premises, and suddenly you’ve got absolutely no work at hand,” says Kaj.
Throughout the years, the entrepreneurs have had a guaranteed remedy for any sticky situation: a strong work ethic.
“In the beginning it was really hard, but later it paid off. It has never been easy and we’ve always had to work hard. As Kaj always used to say, ‘you just need the temperament of a walrus to get the work done.’ And that’s the way it is: you just have to get on with it, or you’ll never get the job done,” Pentti agrees.
Neonelektro employed three experts from Tammerneon, Markku Kuusijärvi (sheet metal worker), Tapio Rantala (assembly) and Esko Toikka (installation and service), who later became partners.
The Finnish service station chain Kesoil was the company’s first major customer. Other key customers were Mobil and Rautakirja, a company operating the R-Kioski convenience store chain, both of which have continued their co-operation with Neonelektro ever since the early years.
For the first three years, the company operated in poky little rental premises near the Tampere city limits, and in the entrepreneurs’ opinion they would suffice in the future as well.
“The place where this company started off sure was small and shoddy,” says Kaj’s son Jari, and it soon became clear that it would be necessary to build a new hall for the company.
Pentti Rahila became a partner in Neonelektro when he bought the shares previously owned by Kaj and Matti’s wives. With Pentti as a partner, the company also obtained the right to manufacture neon signs.
Kaj Lundqvist and Matti Partanen decided that slightly smaller would be more beautiful and started a new company, Neonelektro Oy, together with their wives.
The idea was to focus solely on the manufacturing of neon tubes, but the time was not yet ripe for such a narrow field of specialisation. Six months later, Kaj and Matti met Pentti Rahila, who had ordered some neon tubes from them. Kaj and Matti talked to him about a partnership in the company, and he was interested in the proposition.
Kaj Lundqvist, Markku Koskenniemi, Harri Koskinen and Matti Partanen, all experts in their fields, started the company Tammerneon Oy in Tampere. Tammerneon quickly grew to be the biggest company in the field of illuminated advertisements in Finland.
Karppinen Neon Oy sought to hire a neon installer, “preferably one who owns a car.” Kaj purchased a van and started working all around Finland.
“Markku Koskenniemi often accompanied me on these trips. He was full of energy, and when the possibility of starting our own company came up, we soon decided that we would do it,” says Kaj some 40 years later.
Just after returning home from military service, a young man called Kaj saw a job advertisement in the paper: “Airam seeks two junior neon installers.”
Kaj and a friend decided to apply and went to the Airam office, where the job interview was short and sweet:
“Are you boys afraid of heights?”
“Nope,” said Kaj, “We aren’t.”
“Right. You can start tomorrow.”