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2008 HOF — A Year to Remember

October 2008 By Erik Cagle
Senior Editor
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IT WOULD be safe to say that Jim Mayes is having the type of year that most printing executives would dream about, and it’s not due to a huge influx in the bottom line for his company, ColorCraft of Virginia.

Not that the Sterling, VA-based commercial printer is floundering, either. On the contrary; Mayes’ involvement in some of the industry’s most relevant issues has landed him in some impressive company. In early March, he met with Virginia Governor Tim Kaine as a member of the Printing Industries of Virginia (PIVA) educational task force to discuss workforce development and attracting employees to the printing industry.

Then, on March 26, the ColorCraft CEO played host to President Bush, who toured the printing operation in support of the economic stimulus package he had signed into law the previous month. Bush visited ColorCraft to underscore the business benefits of the package, namely bonus depreciation on new equipment purchased and installed prior to the end of the year. Mayes and Co. had recently added new gear in the pressroom.

“That was a real treat,” says Mayes, 64, of the big visit. “He came in and shook hands with every was a memorable experience for me to welcome the president of the United States to my company.”

Add one more item of interest to Mayes’ year in review: 2008 inductee into the Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame. In fact, it’s been such a good year for him that a fellow inductee, IWCO Direct’s Jim Andersen, cites Mayes as being a driving influence behind his decision to choose printing as a career.

As Frank Sinatra once crooned, it was a very good year. And, judging by the people who know Mayes well, the honors are all well earned.

“Jim is a consummate professional and a very generous man,” notes Mike Marcian, president of Corporate Press in Landover, MD. “He has always been willing to give of his time to the industry. Jim sets a standard for integrity that all people should strive to meet. He always takes the high road.”

Born on a farm in northern Virginia during World War II, Mayes spent much of his childhood in the Washington, DC, area. Reared with a strong Episcopalian ethos, he never missed a Sunday at church before graduating from high school. He had his first taste of printing as an elective in junior high school, operating handfed windmill presses.

Printing always fascinated Mayes; he was also interested in type and design. But Mayes’ high school didn’t offer any printing classes. The profession took a back seat as he graduated high school, then earned a degree in business administration from American University. Once out of college, Mayes went into the insurance business. It didn’t take.

“I didn’t care much for selling insurance,” he says. “One of the customers I called on was a printer, Creative Printing. Every time I visited, the owner offered me a position. It intrigued me, plus it was something different, and I was ready for a challenge.”

Mayes jumped to Creative in 1974, then tried his hand with a couple of other printers, including the former French Bray in Baltimore. Seeking the stewardship of a company, he got wind of a company in need of a succession plan. So, in December 1986, Mayes acquired ColorCraft of Virginia. At the time, ColorCraft boasted annual sales of $2.5 million. Over the next two years, it posted revenues of $4.3 million, then $5.3 million.

Sales kept burgeoning to a high of $17 million, just before 9/11 reared its head. “We had a sudden 20 percent drop in sales and went through two rounds of layoffs in a three-month period,” he recalls. “Laying people off was painful; I knew most of those folks fairly well. While we continued to be profitable after the layoffs, it wasn’t the same level of profitability that we enjoyed in the 1990s.”

The company currently posts sales of $13 million to $14 million per year. According to Mayes, ColorCraft did a good job of keeping pace with technology and following profitable trends for ancillary products and services.

“We were always a sheetfed printer. But we made the progression from being ‘just a printer’ to offering mailing, fulfillment, digital and variable data services,” he notes. 

Over the years, Mayes has learned to divest himself from handling every aspect of the business. “I’m a hands-on person and, to be honest, letting go was difficult for me,” he says. “But as we grew, I had no choice.”

Mayes derives much satisfaction from planning the growth of his company, from purchasing equipment to recruiting and hiring. Similarly, his involvement with the PIA/GATF has been a rewarding experience. 

“Attending PIA/GATF meetings, participating on their committees and being involved on their executive committee has been a richly rewarding experience,” Mayes says. “It provides a strong focus and enables me to make sound business decisions.”

Certainly, Mayes has left his imprint on the PIA/GATF. Just ask its president and CEO, Michael Makin.

“Jim is one of the finest individuals I have ever had the privilege to work with,” Makin notes. “He is a consummate professional whose attention to detail and customer service are legendary in Washington. No matter what project Jim is involved in, he gives it his full attention. He is also one of the most caring and principled people I have ever met, always putting family first. Jim is a prince of a man.”

Mayes has served as chairman for the PIVA local affiliate (1997-98 and 2006-07), as well as serving with the PIA/GATF at the national level (2005). He is currently chairman of the research committee and the Premier Print awards. Mayes also chairs the C.S. Monroe Technical Center’s graphic communications advisory board.

Away from the office, he enjoys freshwater fishing, golf, gardening and coin collecting. On the numismatic front, Mayes specializes in 20th century U.S. coins from 1900 through 1964, of which he has a complete set of coins from the era and is three shy of a complete uncirculated set.

Jim and Cathy Mayes celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary this past summer. They have two daughters, Michelle and Meredith, the latter of which runs the digital department at ColorCraft. At home, they enjoy the company of three yellow labrador retrievers—Jasmine, Angler and Buffett, as in the singer (Jimmy).

All in all, it’s been an exciting and rewarding 2008 for Mayes. So, what were his impressions of the outgoing President Bush?

“I found him to be a very confident, warm and sincere person,” Mayes notes. “He’s taken a lot of heat, some justified, some not. He did say he’s looking forward to going to Texas in January, and that he’s had enough.” PI



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