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Wisconsin Printers — Life in the Badger State

October 2007 By Erik Cagle
Senior Editor
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THOSE WHO have not had the opportunity to visit Wisconsin may have some misconceptions and preconceived notions that portray it in a one-dimensional light. Tim Burton, president of Burton & Mayer in Brookfield, notes there is more to his state than beer, brats and cheese.

Not that the aforementioned items should be the subject of scorn and ridicule, but there is another side to the Badger State.

“We have first-rate theater performances all over the state,” Burton notes. “There’s a world-class art museum in Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Symphony is ranked near the top of all cities. And there’s a new lakefront venue called Pier Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Summerfest, the world’s largest music festival, attracts nearly one million people and features hundreds of bands.

“Last, but not least, although our neighbor state of Minnesota claims to be ‘the land of 10,000 lakes,’ our fine state has more than 13,000 lakes, providing year-round recreational activities anywhere you live.”

Speaking of nature, how about the weather up there? It’s not out of the ordinary to see 42° temperatures on Monday reach 84° by Wednesday. But printers are largely unfazed by Mother Nature. Largely.

“In March of 1976, an ice storm took out most of Ripon’s power,” notes Deba Horn-Prochno, quality/resource manager of Ripon Printers in Ripon. “But we had to get the basketball regional program done for that evening. We all sat on the floor by the front windows and hand-folded the covers and hand-collated the parts together. The production manager drove 15 miles to another printer to get the programs stitched and trimmed.”

Four-wheel-drive trucks are a common sight in Wisconsin. James Sandstrom, president of HM Graphics in Milwaukee, says that it takes a pretty brutal snowstorm to turn away employees.

“To (workers), it’s a challenge to get to work in bad conditions,” Sandstrom remarks. “You put your truck in four-wheel drive and plow through two feet of snow. They take pride in being the people who came in instead of stayed home.”

But not all closures are weather related, according to John Berthelsen, president of Suttle-Straus in Waunakee. “The paper mills only close down operations two days out of the year—Christmas Day and the opening of deer hunting season,” he notes. “What does that say about Wisconsin workers?”

Clearly, they enjoy working hard and playing hard. Deer hunting season is circled on many calendars. Webcrafters of Madison closes on Wednesday during the week of Thanksgiving and is shut down through Saturday.

“They don’t just hunt deer; they eat venison,” notes Kip Frautschi, vice president of marketing and planning for Webcrafters. “It’s nearly a religion for folks around here, and it’s part of the experience of living in Wisconsin. We’d be waist deep in deer if we couldn’t hunt.”

Some people argue that a true test of a person’s character comes during times of adversity. Quad/Graphics certainly saw that during the summer of 2002, following the sudden death of founder Harry V. Quadracci. Only weeks earlier, a collapsed racking system caused a massive fire at Quad’s Lomira plant, resulting in the death of a contract worker. The fire also destroyed a significant amount of work.

Even though Quad dwarfs most of its fellow Wisconsin printers in size and sales, that didn’t stop the competition from coming forward to offer their services in a time of need for the Quadraccis. Fire companies within a 30-mile radius rotated shifts around the clock for nearly a week, rubbing out flareups. And many fellow printers paid their respects in person when Joel Quadracci’s father passed away a short time later.

“While we may be competitors, we’re also compatriots, and we often realize that our stiffest competition is not necessarily from each other, but from other forms of media,” Quadracci says. “Together, we can make print stronger and better than ever.” PI


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