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W.A. Fisher--Mapping Out Success

May 1999
Map printer W.A. Fisher has carved a profitable niche in this mammoth market, where durability, detail accuracy and color are critical. Switching from parchment to synthetic paper gave the company a competitive edge.

Outdoor maps are keys to our nation's parks, wilderness and great outdoors. They enable visitors to safely explore the vast expanse of nature. Accuracy is, of course, of paramount importance. Lakes, rivers, walking trails, portages, historic sites and ranger stations all must be clearly defined. But what about durability? How effective are maps that must endure the persistent elements of nature? Water, dirt and old-fashioned abuse all take a toll.

W.A. Fisher Printing, of Virginia, MN, set out 76 years ago to provide guidance to hikers and campers of the Superior National Forest, Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. The company quickly established itself as the premier printer and publisher of maps and guides of the region. Though the maps were extremely accurate, the parchment paper W.A. Fisher originally used was not durable enough to survive the elements. So in 1980, the company turned to synthetic paper.

William Fisher, an avid outdoorsman, founded the Midwestern company in 1922. Before long, it became known as the largest four-color printer in northern Minnesota. W.A. Fisher provides up-to-date area maps and other high quality printing services to the primary industries in the region—mining and tourism. Maintaining that business over three-quarters of a century has set it apart from its competition.

"It's not often that a small business adapts to service the needs of its customers over seven decades," says Eric Norri, current president and business manager.

After remaining in the Fisher family for two generations, Norri and Mark Leese, both natives to the area, purchased the company in 1990. By then, the Fisher family had once again adapted to changing times by having the foresight to eliminate the fragility of its maps by switching from parchment to synthetic paper.

Synthetic Stock
W.A. Fisher initially used several different synthetic stocks, while seeking the right product. "We just couldn't find a synthetic paper that had all the characteristics we required," declares Norri. "We tested a number of brands to find the most consistent, stable sheet," he continues. "During testing, we compared printability, runability, cost and dot gain. We finally picked Yupo."

The company adapted its marketing message to enable it to carve a profitable niche in the mammoth map business. "We've separated our company from the competition by adding value to our map products," says Leese, vice president and account manager. "When setting out on a trip, campers want accurate, durable maps that stand up to abuse. The durability of Yupo gives our company the competitive edge."


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