Colorcon’s Michael Gettis Receives NAPIM’s Printing Ink Pioneer Award
By David Savastano
During NAPIM’s Annual Convention, which was held in March, Mr. Gettis made two Pioneer Award presentations, and having completed his two-year term as president, handed the gavel to incoming NAPIM president Rick Clendenning.
As Mr. Gettis stepped away from the podium, Mr. Clendenning called him back – for his president’s plaque and his own Pioneer Award.
“It was a shock,” Mr. Gettis said. “I almost fell out of my shoes. I had read off the other awards, and as my term as president was over, I handed the gavel over to Rick. As I headed off the stage, he told me that I forgot my plaque, and started reading my biography. I headed up the nominating committee and helped make the selections for the Ault and Pioneer awards, and the package I got didn’t have my name in it.”
Although the manner in which Mr. Gettis received the award was surprising, that he was honored in the first place makes perfect sense. The Pioneer Award recognizes a person who has faithfully served their companies as well as NAPIM for many years; Mr. Gettis, who is general manager of the No-Tox Products Division of Colorcon, Inc., has been in the ink industry for 42 years and a key leader for NAPIM.
“Mike Gettis is one of the most sincere hardworking people in our industry today,” said Mr. Clendenning, who is president and CEO of INX International Ink Co. “Mike is truly dedicated to his family, his company, our industry and our organization. I was very honored to work with him over the past two years while he was NAPIM’s president and learned a lot. I would sincerely like to congratulate Mike on being honored by receiving a 2009 NAPIM Printing Ink Pioneer Award at this year’s convention.”
Joining F.G. Okie
For Mr. Gettis, joining the printing ink industry was mostly the result of a good break.
“I was working with US Steel on the swing shift in 1966, and I found out I would get weekends off every 18 weeks, which was not good for my family,” he said. “I wanted a lab position, loved chemistry and wanted to go back to school. I found two jobs that were good for me, and took a job with Simonds Abrasives, but when I went in for the first day, I realized that what they said was not what they promised when I interviewed.
“I then contacted Gordon Way, vice president of F.G. Okie, who said if I was still interested to come on in,” Mr. Gettis recalled.
F.G. Okie was a highly technical company specializing in pharmaceutical coatings and printing inks. Notably, in 1967, Fred Bichaylo developed No-Tox direct food contact coupon sheetfed offset inks for inside General Foods cereal boxes. Mr. Gettis was hired as a chemical operator, and while manufacturing wasn’t his initial goal, he quickly gained experience at Okie.
“I worked in production at first as a chemical operator, but as we were a small company, I did much of my own testing,” he said. “In 1969, I was promoted to production manager.”
Mr. Gettis picked up plenty of key advice about the industry and the world of business from the team at F.G. Okie.
“Gordon Way was my first mentor; his boss was Warren Ingersol, a wonderful man,” Mr. Gettis recalled. “Fred Bichaylo was a very good friend. When I was handed the Pioneer Award, I thought about when I was asked to receive Fred’s Pioneer Award in 1998, as he was too ill to come to the convention.”
NAPIM president Rick Clendenning, left, surprises Michael Gettis with the Printing Ink Pioneer Award during the recent NAPIM annual convention.
“My grandfather, Frank Choplinski, was a lieutenant of detectives in the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD), and he really made sure I did everything right,” Mr. Gettis said. “I got my work ethic from him; after he retired from the PPD, he worked 20 years in a foundry. My father, Joseph, served in the Navy during World War II and for Levitt & Sons and the Leadership Corp. of Texaco in construction.”
While F.G. Okie’s strength was on the technical side, the company was not as focused on sales and marketing. Its main competition was Colorcon, led by its founder, John Attaway, a former Okie employee. Okie was more passive in sales while Colorcon was more aggressive, and had grown much faster.
The competition was noticed by Berwind Pharmaceuticals, which was interested in the two companies and their innovative products. In 1978, Berwind made the unique move of acquiring both F.G. Okie and Colorcon, with the idea of keeping them separate. Mr. Gettis was named marketing manager of Okie.
“Berwind kept us autonomous until 1980, and then Mr. Graham Berwind decided to bring us together, which was good for the pharmaceutical industry and improved company efficiencies,” Mr. Gettis recalled. “Prior to Okie physically moving to Colorcon in 1980, I was offered a technical sales representative position in the Northeast. I loved the sales side.”
Mr. Gettis brought his knowledge of the No-Tox products to sales, and his success led to further opportunities.
“By 1983, I was the only person in the company who was actively selling No-Tox products,” Mr. Gettis said. “Colorcon made me the account manger to develop the No-Tox market, and I was able to grow the business. It was tough leaving the pharmaceuticalside of the business, which is the core business of Colorcon, but it turned out to be a good move.”
During the next eight years, Mr. Gettis gained further responsibilities, serving as account executive and sales manager. By 1990, the No-Tox product line had grown to the point where the No-Tox Division was formed, and Mr. Gettis was promoted to director, marketing and sales – No-Tox Products. Mr. Gettis was promoted to general manager – No-Tox Products Division in 2003, and the company continues to maintain its leadership in its specialized field today.
And the Industry
Mr. Gettis is an active member of NAPIM, having just completed a two-year term as president. He also has served as vice president and treasurer, and is also a member of NAPIM’s Executive Board. Not surprisingly, he is a strong supported of the association.
“From an industry standpoint, NAPIM doesn’t get enough credit,” Mr. Gettis said. “We offer a lot of leadership on areas such as regulatory, and other ink companies who don’t join reap the benefits. If more companies join, it would give us a stronger voice.”
It seems fitting that Mr. Gettis would serve in a leadership position in NAPIM, considering Okie’s longtime support of the group. “We joined NAPIM in the Okie days; in 1914, Frank G. Okie was in the original NAPIM group,” Mr. Gettis said.
Outside of NAPIM, Mr. Gettis is also a member of the Flexographic Technical Association (FTA); Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) and the IFT Food Packaging Division. He has also been a member of the British Coatings Federation (BCF); the Institute of Packaging Professionals (IoPP), American Pharmaceutical Association (APhA) and the American Marketing Association (AMA). His papers on direct food contact printing inks and coatings have been published in the U.S. by Flexo magazine, in Latin America by Flexo Espanol magazine and in Europe by the Pigment & Resin Technology journal of MCB University Press Limited.
“All of these associations provide benefits to their industries,” he said.
Above all else, for Mr. Gettis, his family comes first. He and his wife Kathy have been married for 44 years, and they have four sons – Michael, Chris, Chuck and Joe – 13 grandchildren (plus one on the way) and one great grandchild (plus one on the way).
“Family is number one for me,” he said. “We have four sons, and how Kathy raised them when I was away on sales trips is beyond me. Kathy and I have a loving relationship which grows everyday, and I wouldn’t think it possible that you could love someone more with each passing day.”
As for his future in the ink industry, Mr. Gettis plans on continuing his efforts at Colorcon.
“Colorcon is great, and I look forward to going to work every morning,” he concluded. “I enjoy it so much. We have a very close-knit team of dedicated people. Our business is R&D and customer-driven, as we have developed single products for single companies. It’s such an unusual business, where things change every day.”