U.S. Rubber earns two 2021 Inland Empire spirit of entrepreneur awards

San Bernardino, CA – U.S. Rubber, which manufactures sustainable rubber flooring for fitness centers and LEED-certified underlayment for multistory buildings, was twice recognized at the 2021 Inland Empire Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards, earning top honors in the Manufacturing and Best of the Best categories. CEO Jeff Baldassari got the nods for his leadership in practicing and promoting second-chance hiring in Southern California.

Founded in 2003 by the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship at California State University San Bernardino, the Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards, announced November 10, recognize local business leaders “who innovate, take risks, and build businesses that contribute significantly to our local economy.”

“This is a big deal for U.S. Rubber and the Inland Empire,” says Baldassari. “Close to eight million Californians have a criminal record that traps them in a cycle of poverty, even after they’ve paid their debt to society. I am honored to be recognized for giving some of these individuals a well-deserved chance to rebuild their lives, and for encouraging other business leaders to do the same. Credit goes to our whole leadership team, including Leslie Morales, who as VP of operations actively seeks out formerly incarcerated people who are ready to join our manufacturing team by collaborating with local public sector and nonprofit organizations.” 

The Best of the Best honor is awarded each year to one category winner who goes above and beyond to create jobs and value where none existed before.

“I was delighted to see Jeff Baldassari recognized with the Manufacturing Entrepreneur Award and the top award of the event, the Best of the Best,” says Dr. Michael Stull, Spirit Awards Founder and Executive Producer. “His leadership, innovation and commitment to putting the team at U.S. Rubber first stood out to the event organizers and judges. Jeff is a shining example of entrepreneurial success in the Inland Empire.”

U.S. Rubber has been hiring second-chance employees for more than 20 years. When Baldassari joined the team in 2019, he invested new resources into the program, which he named Bounce Back! These investments included hiring an on-staff psychiatric rehabilitation counselor to speak confidentially with employees and help them resolve any challenges they face at and outside work. The upgraded program helped the company fill open positions and grow more than 100 percent during the pandemic.