2009 Printing Industry Hall of Fame : Joy of the JourneySeptember 2009 By Erik Cagle
HOW OFTEN does a 12-year-old have a strong sense of what he/she wants to become in life? Even most 22-year-olds haven't a clue as to what their future holds.
Well, Ralph Pontillo knew. Roughly 46 years ago, he stepped into a printing shop as a seventh grader and found his destiny staring right back at him. Call it focus, call it motivation, call it determination. It doesn't matter.
"The day I walked in here was the day that I knew what I was going to do for the rest of my life," Pontillo recalls. "I'm one of those unusual people who knew exactly what they wanted to be, even before going to college. I just focused on graphic arts and printing from that point forward, and have never regretted it. It's been a fun and interesting journey."
Pontillo, 58, may have predicted his future, but history books will reveal him to be the savior of his company: Miami Valley Publishing, of Fairborn, OH. He boasts an overall resumé that more than qualifies him as a 2009 Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame inductee.
Of his 37 years in the graphic arts industry, 2009 has to rank as the most eventful, and certainly the most memorable, for Pontillo.
Transcontinental Inc.—which owned Miami Valley Publishing and had hired Pontillo 15 years earlier to quarterback the operation—made the strategic decision to focus on its core strengths in North America, which include direct mail and newspaper production. Miami Valley Publishing, which focuses on commercial printing—particularly retail inserts—wasn't part of the long-range plans and would be shut down.
Pontillo started negotiating for the right to acquire Miami Valley Publishing from Transcontinental in late January. Not quite five months later, the papers were signed and the plant's former general manager officially became owner of Miami Valley. Pontillo had saved the printing "farm," without having ridden into town on a white horse.
"It was kind of scary," he says of negotiating a deal in such a sour economy. "A lot of my friends called me and questioned whether I knew what the heck I was doing. But, it really came down to having managed this facility for the past 15 years. I know this business, I know the customers and I believe strongly in our people.
"We're going to make it work, with all 150 of us committed to doing whatever it takes. Every person throughout our facility is focused on making sure we keep our jobs. Like I told everyone in the plant, we're here to save everybody's job, including mine. We're not going to get rich in printing. But our goal is to keep the company afloat and to maintain our livelihoods. We all enjoy what we're doing, and hopefully we can all retire from here."