A Family Atmosphere at NAPIM

By David Savastano, Ink World Editor | 10.15.09

NAPIM executive director James Coleman receives Printing Ink Pioneer Award

During its annual convention in April, National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM) president William P. Rimel III had presented six Printing Ink Pioneer Awards, the maximum number of such awards, which recognize long-term members of the ink industry “who have faithfully served their companies and the association for many years.”

Then, with a smile, Mr. Rimel paused, and added that there was “one more Pioneer Award” to be handed out. As he read the vast qualifications of the honoree, it became clear to all that the recipient was James E. Coleman, NAPIM’s executive director since 1997.

Mr. Coleman was noticeably caught off guard, especially as his office handles all the awards. “This comes very much as a surprise,” he said that night.

However, considering Mr. Coleman’s extensive leadership credentials in the ink industry and as NAPIM’s leader since 1997, and the family feel that he and his wife Sue have maintained with NAPIM, the award was not at all surprising to the attendees.

At Borden Chemical And Huber

While most industry newcomers know Mr. Coleman as the leader of NAPIM, he first joined the industry in 1961 as an engineering student in the cooperative program at the University of Cincinnati.

“After the first year in the program, you alternate between working and school,” Mr. Coleman said. “My first work session was to be in the space program for General Electric, but President Kennedy cancelled the program before I could report. I scrambled to find a job, and ended up at Hawley-Monk, a recent purchase of Borden Chemical.”

Mr. Coleman worked on the technical side, and liked what he saw of the ink industry. Borden liked his work, and when he earned his chemical engineering degree in 1965, he joined the product development laboratories of Borden Chemical. He gained experience in formulation and technical service in letterpress, offset, flexo and gravure, and moved up through the ranks, ultimately working his way up to vice president of technology.

Mr. Coleman’s introduction to NAPIM and its sister technical branch, the National Printing Ink Research Institute (NPIRI), came during those early years at Borden.

“Greg Huelsman got me involved in NPIRI back in the mid-1970s, and once I worked my way up into the management side, president Chet Stroud got me involved in NAPIM,” Mr. Coleman said.

After serving on NAPIM’s Government Relations Committee for several years, he joined the NPIRI board in 1984, becoming chairman of its Liquid Ink Research Committee. During Mr. Coleman’s 10 years on the NPIRI board, he served both as treasurer and president and contributed significantly to NPIRI’s research programs. In 1985, Mr. Coleman also became a NAPIM board member.

Meanwhile, the Coleman family was growing quickly. By 1981, there were eight children in the Coleman family, with Mrs. Coleman taking the lead in raising them while Mr. Coleman was on the road.

By 1984, Mr. Coleman was ready for a new challenge, and he joined J. M. Huber’s Printing Ink Division as operations manager. By 1985, he became its president, responsible for its domestic and Venezuelan ink operations. Huber specialized in news and corrugated inks, and within 10 years, its sales had grown to $70 million annually. However, profits did not keep up, and the printing ink division was sold in 1995 to Heritage International.

“The Huber family had struggled with their return from the printing ink side of its business compared to its other specialty chemical units, and it got to the point when the depressed news ink prices convinced the family it was time to sell the company and put the money into something that provided a larger return,” Mr. Coleman said.

Mr. Coleman said Huber was a wonderful place to work.

“It was an extremely fine company, and was a very rewarding time,” he recalled.

Joining NAPIM

The sale of Huber to Heritage forced Mr. Coleman to reconsider his role with the new company. Above all, the Colemans are extremely family-oriented, and after leaving Heritage and staying with another company in the industry would have required moving from New Jersey, where most of their children lived. Moving was just not right for them.

Coincidentally, Mr. Coleman had just been elected treasurer of NAPIM in 1994 and vice president in 1995. By 1996, Jimmy Sutphin, NAPIM’s executive director since 1991, had decided to retire for health reasons. Mr. Sutphin said that Mr. Coleman was the first person he called on as a possible successor.

“I’d known Jim for a long time, and I had decided to retire,” Mr. Sutphin said. “I knew things were changing at Huber, and Jim was the first person I thought of to take my place.”

Mr. Coleman joined NAPIM as assistant executive director. For the Colemans, the opportunity to move on to NAPIM was ideal. Mr. Sutphin made the transition from industry to trade association easier by staying on for an additional year.

“Leading an association is much different than leading a business, and working with Jimmy for a year was invaluable,” Mr. Coleman said. “Having been a member for many years, I knew how it worked. Trade organizations and companies both have customers you have to satisfy. Trade associations must provide for the varying needs of the different types of members, whether its family-owned or large publicly-held corporations, or between large- and medium-sized companies.”

Among the initiatives during Mr. Coleman’s tenure, NAPIM has held two manufacturing symposiums during the International Coatings Expo show; enhanced the NPIRI Technical Conference by adding short courses and poster boards; and reached out to recruit members worldwide.

Ink industry leaders have nothing but praise for the work that Jim and Sue Coleman have done over the years. Mr. Sutphin, and James Renson, Mr. Coleman’s two immediate predecessors, speak highly of Mr. Coleman’s successes with NAPIM.

“Jim’s a good administrator who has strong management experience,” said Mr. Renson, who served as NAPIM’s executive director from 1976-90. “He was a technical man before going into management, and he has a great background. He’s a great guy. Under the Colemans, they have added a number of new technical services which have been impressive.”

“I would say he has done a great job, especially considering the number of mergers and the state of the economy,” Mr. Sutphin said.

Mr. Coleman’s present colleagues at NAPIM also appreciate his efforts for the industry.

“Jim came up from the technical side, which led him to manufacturing and ultimately president of Huber’s ink division,” said Rich Incontro, NAPIM’s technical coordinator. “I find he has synergized the best of his experiences and uses them to enhance NAPIM and NPIRI.”

“Jim is a good guy, has a good vision of what he wants to accomplish and is good at executing it,” said George Fuchs, NAPIM’s environmental affairs manager.

Ink industry executives also speak of the Colemans’ accomplishments.

“Jim does a great job. He is on top of the issues and keeps members and the board involved,” Mr. Rimel said.

“Jim is most deserving of the award,” said Michael Murphy, Sun Chemical’s senior vice president, North America and NAPIM president from 1999-2001. “He’s done an awful lot to promote the industry in the U.S. and internationally. He’s very fair in how he deals with all of the members.”

“I have great admiration for the people who can lead a trade association,” said Cal Sutphin, president of Braden Sutphin Ink and NAPIM president from 1995-97. “Jim has a real love of the industry, and he has a great sense of humor. He’s also very fiscally responsible.”

‘The fact is that Jim and Sue Coleman came in to a very successful trade organization and they raised the bar,” said Ron Barry, chairman of Color Converting Industries and NAPIM’s president from 1993-95.

Importance of Family

Looking back on his career, there have been many highlights for Mr. Coleman, but he regards their four sons, four daughters and 13 grandchildren as the most important of all.

Of their sons, Jim is with Johnson and Johnson’s IT department; Chris is in QC at Apollo Colors; Larry is a major in Marine Corps; and Brian is a Baltimore, MD policeman. Their daughters are Cheri, a bio-medical engineer; Jodi and Sarah are teachers; and Cathleen, who, like her dad many years before, is at the University of Cincinnati, studying interior design.

“I’ve been pleased with all we have accomplished in the ink industry, but our most important accomplishment has been our family,” Mr. Coleman said. “Any parent would be proud of the way our children have grown up.”

“We have a great family, a close group, and I dearly love them all,” said Mrs. Coleman.

Considering the importance the Colemans place on family, it should not be much of a surprise that Mr. Coleman’s parents rank highest among his influences.

“My parents, Jim and Rosemary, were my greatest influences,” Mr. Coleman recalled. “They developed a hard-nosed, persevering work ethic in me, and I hope to have passed that work ethic onto our kids.”

Mr. Coleman said that within the ink industry, he was influenced by Mr. Huelsman, as well as competitors such as Sun Chemical’s Ed Barr and Massie Odiotti. “Ed demonstrated a caliber of management that we often tried to emulate,” Mr. Coleman said.

The Future

Mr. Coleman said that NAPIM has plenty to do for its members, and may look to expand its influence worldwide as raw materials and printing become more globally interconnected.

“NAPIM is in very good shape, and we’ve been able to keep things stable by growing participation, but it’s a significant challenge to have NAPIM better serve all of its members,” Mr. Coleman said. “Our challenge is to provide meaningful activities for emerging interests such as energy curing and digital. These are areas we have to identify how to serve, which will provide us with potential new members. I would also like to energize some of our current members. As more companies buy and sell internationally, there is value in a worldwide network of printing ink companies.”

Helping the ink industry improve its margins is also essential.

“I think you see more of a recognition that we need to convince printers of the value of our service,” Mr. Coleman said. “They have to believe printing ink is much more than a mixture of chemicals.”

Mr. Coleman is looking forward to continuing his work at NAPIM.

“I’ve very much enjoyed the ink industry and NAPIM,” Mr. Coleman concluded. “It's a good industry, and NAPIM provides people the opportunity to grow and develop their skills.”

For NAPIM members, that means that the family atmosphere will continue to be a part of industry gatherings for years to come.