For more than 50 years, Mr. Curtin made many technical and business contributions to the printing ink industry, from building Press Color and creating new products to playing a key role in founding the Print Suppliers Group. In recognition of his numerous accomplishments, Mr. Curtin received the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers’ (NAPIM) prestigious Printing Ink Pioneer Award in 2007.
Mr. Curtin is survived by his three sons, Bill, Mike and Dennis; and two daughters, Christine and Kathleen; as well as five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Press Color, Inc.’s tradition of service to their customers will continue on under the management of his son, Dennis.
Dennis Curtin said that his dad’s knowledge and guidance will be deeply missed.
“Dad was so generous to give me his company,” Dennis Curtin said. “I talked with our employees today about what a great guy and a tough son of a gun he was. I loved the heck out of him. As a father, it was tough to work for him,. He helped me so much to understand business decisions as well as my personal life.”
Mr. Curtin’s path in the ink industry began in 1954, when he started as a mill hand at Consolidated Printing Ink in Milwaukee. His first boss at Consolidated was Jack Green, and when Mr. Green left the company to form Press Color in 1960, Mr. Curtin moved to Press Color as its very first employee. Mr. Curtin rose through the ranks from the plant to the lab, then to sales and then management. In 1973, Mr. Curtin became a partner of Press Color, and acquired full ownership five years later when Mr. Green retired.
When Mr. Curtin took over Press Color in1978, the company specialized in sheetfed and letterpress. However, he realized that letterpress was falling out of favor, and quickly branched out into flexo. In addition to Press Color, Mr. Curtin starting three companies affiliated with Press Color offering varnishes, fountain solutions and blankets: S.R. Premier Ink Company with George Winandy, a varnish company that was later sold to Akzo Nobel; DynaChem, a fountain solution company, in 2003; and ChemPrint, a blanket converting business.
“He often told me, ‘Kid, business is like running up a down escalator, and once you stop, you go backwards,” Dennis Curtin recalled.
On the technical side, Mr. Curtin was well respected for his hands-on ink formulating, patented fountain solutions and printer support, and he developed ink formulations for all types of printing which have improved customers’ processes. Mr. Curtin and Press Color introduced concentrated flexo inks for a full range of printing types. On the sheetfed side, Mr. Curtin and his team introduced the LEXA ink systems, which offered high color strength, excellent press stability, quick setting, fast drying and excellent rub resistance.
Developing environmentally friendly products was also important to Mr. Curtin, who was instrumental in the invention and patenting of a zero-VOC (volatile organic compounds) fountain concentrate called FC3. This one-step system has attributes that go beyond just being VOC-free. This fountain concentrate allows printers to enhance ink drying, start up faster, reduce waste and realize sharper dot print results.
Dennis Curtin recalled how delivering solutions is the way his dad marketed Press Color’s business.
“For example, in the fall of 2007 a customer installed its second 10-color flexo press,” Dennis Curtin said. “Planning and filling this new 10-color press is credited with a major role played by my dad’s problem-solving team. This customer is said to be the largest producer in the U.S. of certain institutional printed packaging wraps. Press Color has helped this customer through several years of growth, including moving beyond 8-color flexography.
“About the latest 10-color press, the customer said, ‘Special inks developed by Press Color Inc. were a big factor in getting the business where no other methods had worked. It’s a water-based ink system used in a situation that usually sees solvent-based approaches. Beyond that, the printed area is later subjected to high heat, up to 400°F, and it requires good water and rub resistance.’ These developments led to the printer’s customer’s product breakthrough and even expanded capacity to meet market demand by brand leaders in the category.
“On-site technical support has been a hallmark of my dad’s approach. It has been a key factor in the printer’s ability to deliver on-target results in the most cost effective way,” Dennis Curtin added.
Mr. Curtin was a member of NAPIM for decades and participated in NAPIM activities. He is a good example of carrying out the NAPIM mission by applying it to his own business, providing information and assistance to his team and to printers, helping them to better manage their business. Like NAPIM, he is always conscious of his representation of the printing ink industry.
Among Mr. Curtin’s achievements was being a founding member and first president of the Print Suppliers Group (PSG), a buying consortium of independent ink manufacturers and distributors in North America. Dennis Brunner of Brunner Consultants, the current PSG president, said Curtin played a huge role in the organization.
“Bill’s tenacity helped propel the PSG forward as a viable, strong national buying group in order to leverage the PSG members’ ability to better service their customers, which is a success all the members enjoy today greatly thanks to Bill,” Brunner said. “Bill was an award-winning, highly respected pioneer in the printing industry. He was always true to his word and committed to his values. He was a trusted friend to all within PSG and a pillar to the printing industry. We were fortunate to have known him. His passing is truly sad for the industry, his family and his friends.”
“I’ve been working with my dad for more than 20 years,” Dennis Curtin concluded. I am grateful for the time we had. I wish I had more time to be together with him.”