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Wisconsin Printers — Serious ’Bout Their Printing

October 2007 By Erik Cagle
Senior Editor
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THERE’S LITTLE doubt that a certain European country helped make Wisconsin the “Printing Capital of the USA.” Just ask John Berthelsen, president of Suttle-Straus in Waunakee.

“There were lots of German immigrants who came to this area and many of them were printers,” Berthelsen says. “The rest made beer, so it was a good combination.”

Welcome to Wisconsin, whose name translates to “grassy place” in the Chippewa language. And speaking of Native Americans, this state has a few cities and towns named after tribes: Milwaukee, Menomonie, Pewaukee, Waunakee and Waukesha, to name a few.

Among its nicknames is the Badger State; in the 19th century, Wisconsin lead miners lived in carved-out hillside caves. These temporary homes were called badger dens, its inhabitants ridiculed as badgers. Residents took ownership of the nickname and turned it into a positive.

As everyone knows, Wisconsin is hailed as America’s Dairyland, accounting for 40 percent of the nation’s cheese production. And, yes, what good would cheese be without something to wash it down? Miller Brewing is the cornerstone brewery in a state that was the birthplace to Pabst, Schlitz and Blatz.

But the printing industry just may be the straw that stirs Wisconsin’s drink. More than a few printers have said it is difficult to live in the state without having a relative or friend in the printing business. And it seems to be woven deep into the fabric of life for Wisconsinites.

State of Higher Learning

There’s no lack of printing education in the Badger State—Bradley Tech, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, Waukesha County Technical College (with its Harry V. Quadracci Printing Educational Technology Center), the University of Wisconsin-Stout and Fox Valley Technical College. Fuzzy Marek, CEO of The Marek Group in Waukesha, feels this feeder system is one aspect that keeps the state on top of its game.

“These schools have provided the state’s printing companies with a great talent pool of highly educated employees trained specifically for our industry,” he says. “I believe the schools within our education system...truly help bring quality minds to our companies. These students leave school understanding the technology that is driving our industry and are excited about being part of this new digital age.”

Chris Carpenter, president and CEO of Sun Prairie-based Royle Printing, echoes Marek’s sentiments, noting that printing has become a family heritage. “Choosing a career in printing was and continues to be generational, sometimes spanning across three or four generations,” he says. “Yes, our industry and the technology we employ have advanced greatly, but we still rely on the experience and passion of our employees to delight our customers.”


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