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Apollo Colors' Matt McClure Receives NAPIM's Pioneer Award

By David Savastano, Ink World Editor | 06.16.11

The Printing Ink Pioneer Award is presented by the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM) to honor individuals who have served the ink industry and their companies with distinction. Up until this year, the Pioneer Award was only presented to ink industry members.

For 2011, NAPIM changed the rules for the Pioneer Award to also include suppliers. It was a reasonable change, as there have been countless suppliers who have made major contributions to the printing ink industry.

Matt McClure, technical director and vice president at Apollo Colors, was the first candidate to represent the suppliers as a Printing Ink Pioneer during NAPIM’s 2011 Annual Convention, held recently in Miami, FL. A leader in pigment technology designed for graphic arts applications, Mr. McClure is also a current instructor at the NPIRI Summer Course.

“This has been one of the highlights of my career,” said Mr. McClure about being the first supplier to receive the Pioneer Award. “It was a singular honor not just for me but for all the folks at Apollo, and indeed a recognition of all the suppliers to the ink industry.”

His colleagues agree that Mr. McClure is a deserving choice for the award.

“I’ve worked with Matt since 1994 and have always found him to be the consummate professional manager,” said Dave Klebine, Apollo Colors’ president. “His extensive knowledge of pigment and ink technology coupled with his excellent decision making skills have made him a key contributor to the success of Apollo Colors.”

“He’s a good guy,” added Larry Bykerk, vice president of sales at Apollo Colors. “He teaches the NPIRI Summer Course at Fox Valley, and conducts customer seminars and tours here at Apollo. He is absolutely a deserving choice.”

Joining the Industry

Mr. McClure began his career in the graphic arts more than 29 years ago. After graduating from the University of Strathclyde, Scotland, he joined Ciba-Giegy in Paisley Scotland as a research chemist.

“I was unemployed with a chemistry degree and the local economy in Scotland was not doing too well,” Mr. McClure noted. “A friend of mine knew the personnel manager at Ciba Giegy's pigment plant in Paisley. He set up an interview and I got the job as a pigment research chemist. I should also point out that I owed my friend some money, so I got a job and he finally got his money back.”

Mr. McClure quickly found the pigments industry to be an interesting one.

“I found the combination of the organic chemistry and physical chemistry involved in making pigments fascinating and still do,” he said.

A few years after he began with Ciba Giegy, Mr. McClure decided to move to the U.S. to join Sun Chemical’s pigments division in Cincinnati, Ohio as a research chemist and he carried out extensive work at the Muskegon, MI plant. He eventually ended up as the Process Control manager in Cincinnati. In 1984 he joined Apollo Colors as its technical director and vice president.

“Coming to the States to work for Sun Chemical initially as a research chemist developing dry yellow pigments for their Muskegon plant, and moving on to Apollo Colors working in flush color, particularly the soya-based flushes for the news ink market, and helping Apollo to grow in very difficult times for the pigment industry have all proved to be very rewarding, and to cap it off, receiving the Printing Ink Pioneer Award was really the icing on the cake,” Mr. McClure said.

During his 37 years in the industry, Mr. McClure has seen many changes in pigment technology and manufacturing.

“There have been two major shifts in pigment technology over the years, one the emphasis and refinement in the test methods used to evaluate the quality and consistency of pigments and pigment-based products and the introduction of more eco-friendly and sustainable materials in flush manufacturing,” Mr. McClure said. “In the business sense, obviously the consolidation of the ink industry and the competition from overseas pigment manufacturers have made life very interesting over the last 20 years.”

Outside of Apollo Colors, Mr. McClure has taken on the role of teaching at the NPIRI Summer Course, which he thoroughly enjoys.

“As someone who loves the sound of my own voice, I thoroughly enjoy being an instructor at the summer course,” he joked. “But seriously, for anyone in the graphic arts industry, you will not find a more comprehensive overview and an in-depth introduction to the many facets of the industry. The collection of experts who form the core of instructors cannot be found anywhere else within our industry.”

Mr. McClure cites a number of key influences, both inside and outside of the industry.

“There have been a great many people who have influenced my life,” he said. “My wife, Loira, who is American, made sure I was going to stay in the States. In the industry George Robertson, who worked for both Ciba and Sun, was an outstanding pigment chemist and really helped me to be a better pigment chemist. John Neumann at Sun taught me a lot about quality control and quality systems and finally, Tom Rogers, who as president of Apollo Colors, provided me with a greater insight and knowledge into the business side of our industry.”

Outside of work, Mr. McClure enjoys history and nature. “I'm a bit of a history buff,” he noted. “I enjoy reading history and biographies, and I have recently taken up walking in our local nature preserve, which offers not only exercise but a chance to get a wee bit closer to the natural world and is a great way to unwind.”

All in all, Mr. McClure has enjoyed his career at Apollo Colors and in the graphic arts.

“Working at Apollo Colors has been and continues to be one of the most satisfying parts of my life,” Mr. McClure concluded. “The people, the challenges and the satisfaction when things work out continue to provide me with a great sense of being part of a still dynamic and evolving industry.”