Tetra’s growth began in 1964, when F. Lee Hawes purchased Sycraft Plastics, a small company with two extruders in University City, Missouri. In 1965 it moved to nearby Maplewood and changed its name to Tetra Plastics. The Greek word for four, “Tetra”, signifies the four values the company is built on: Quality, Service, Innovation, and Engineering.

Chesterfield Facility

In 1968, the company built a new plant in Chesterfield, Missouri and developed an innovative extrusion process to produce expansion tubes for Combustion Engineering’s use in nuclear power plant construction. That same year, Tetra engineered a process that applied hot melt adhesive to a square tube used as wing sticks on plastic kites.

In 1972, Tetra became the only U.S. company to successfully develop and manufacture plastic top surface, sidewall, internal parts, and base materials for the production of snow skis. Previously, all materials were supplied from Europe. The company also developed the original pre-decorated ABS plastic top for fiberglass water skis.

In 1981, Tetra began work with NIKE to develop the NIKE Airsole® cushioning system. A proprietary extrusion process was developed by Tetra engineers to produce the polyurethane film for the original Airsoles® used in the early 1980s. In 1986, the company developed another proprietary process for production of a heel cushioning Airsole® that was visible through windows in the shoe. In 1991, Tetra developed a proprietary blow-molding process that produces an air system totally visible in the heel and creates maximum cushioning. Tetra was the only supplier of Airsole® cushioning materials to NIKE worldwide.

In 1991, when Hawes retired, NIKE purchased Tetra to ensure the company’s continued support of NIKE Air®.

Although solving problems was Tetra’s strong point, the Great Flood of 1993 presented a huge challenge. The company was faced with physical damage to the Chesterfield plant and the possibility that production might be forced to shut down. Drawing on the strengths that had kept Tetra at the leading edge of its industry, the company set out to keep NIKE and its other customers’ plants running.

The company utilized several innovative tactics to relocate the equipment to a temporary plant in Earth City. Two of the most notable were the uses of helicopter air-lifts and rigging a diesel truck to drive through flood waters 5 feet deep. Initial production resumed just 27 days after the levee broke.


Flood of 1993

NikeIHM St. Charles, MO

In 1995, Tetra moved into the current 220,000 square foot plant located in the Missouri Research Park in St. Charles, just across the Missouri River from the old plant. This facility serves as a reminder of Tetra’s longtime dedication to rising above the challenge.

In 1998, Nike, Inc. officially changed the name from Tetra Plastics, to Nike IHM, Inc., a subsidiary of Nike, Inc.