For 53 years, William J. Curtin, president of Press Colors, inc. Glendale and Appleton, WI, has been a key presence in the ink industry. He has been instrumental in developing new ink technologies, forgingalliances and supporting customers, all while growing his ink business and side companies.
William Curtin receives NAPIM’s Printing Ink Pioneer Award from NAPIM president Dave Frescoln.
“I was overwhelmed by this award,” Mr. Curtin said. “It is a wonderful thing to be honored by your peers.”
The Road to Press Color
Mr. Curtin’s career in the ink industry began in 1954, when he started as a mill hand at Consolidated Printing Ink in Milwaukee.
“It was a fluke,” Mr. Curtin said of his joining Consolidated Printing Ink, which was owned by Brown and Bigelow. “My mother had a friend who worked for an ink company that needed somebody. I told my mother I didn’t want any part of it, but as a personal favor, I did talk to them. I started at $1.45 an hour, washing tubs and delivering ink. I had no intention of staying until Jack Green showed me his first paycheck.”
His first boss at Consolidated was Jack Green, and when Mr. Green left Consolidated 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.
“I ran production, and eventually did lab work, then went into selling, which I didn’t want any part of,” Mr. Curtin recalled. “Still, I took a $16,000 territory and ran it up to $1 million in two years while continuing to run both the production and the lab.”
In 1973, Mr. Curtin became a partner of Press Color, and acquired full ownership five years later when Mr. Green retired.
Mr. Curtin’s knowledge of inks has been a critical component to Press Color’s success. Among his achievements, Mr. Curtin introduced concentrated flexographic inks for a full range of printing types. On the sheetfed printing side, he and his team recently introduced the LEXA ink system, which offers high color strength, excellent press stability, quick setting, fast drying and excellent rub resistance.
Environmentally friendly ingredients are also part of Mr. Curtin’s contributions to the industry. The development of a zero-VOC (volatile organic compounds) fountain concentrate, which he patented, called FC3, is a one-step system with attributes that include environmental and printing quality benefits. This fountain concentrate allows printers to enhance ink drying, start up faster, reduce waste and realize sharper dot print results.
“Bill’s achievements include his technical work on inks for all types of printing which have improved customers’ processes,” Dennis Curtin, Press Color’s vice president, said.
When Mr. Curtin took over Press Color Inc., the company specialized in sheetfed and letterpress inks. However, he realized that letterpress was falling out of favor, and quickly branched out into flexo.
“We started basically in sheetfed and letterpress, and became interested in flexo when we saw corrugated printingshift away from letterpress,” Mr. Curtin said. “We separated our two operations: Appleton, which is 100 percent fluid ink, and Glendale, which is 100 percent paste ink. Our fluid ink side has had astronomical growth. We’re on our third building, and are looking at expanding further.”
William Curtin, left, and Dennis Curtin during NAPIM’s Annual Convention, where William Curtin received the Printing Ink Pioneer Award.
“In the 1970s, we started S.R. Premier with George Winandy. This was a varnish company which we later sold to Akzo Nobel,” Mr. Curtin said. “We started DynaChem, a fountain solution company, in 2003, as well as ChemPrint North, a blanket converting business.”
His entrepreneurial vision hasn’t slowed down.Mr. Curtin helped organize and served as the inaugural president of the Print Suppliers Group. His term of office lasted for the group’s first two years, beginning in 2001. Total ink sales and other supplies provided by the group’s members are now well beyond $50 million annually.
Press Color was also one of eight founding member companies of a group known as Converting Influence, which promotes converting of all types.
Mr. Curtin is a member of the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation, the Flexographic Technical Association and Printing Industries of Wisconsin, and he is an ardent supporter of NAPIM.
“I am proud to be a member of NAPIM, and every ink company should take advantage of NAPIM.,” Mr. Curtin said. “It has been helpful with providing us information, as well as with keeping us up to date with government regulations.”
Mr. Curtin has three sons, Bill,Mike and Dennis; and two daughters, Christine and Kathleen; as well as five grandchildren. Dennis has followed his father into the ink business.
“I wanted my dad to lend me some money, and he told me to take a part-time job,” Dennis Curtin said. “I cleaned up the plant and cooked varnish three drums at a time.”
Mr. Curtin passed along his business wisdom to his son Dennis, who is now vice president of Press Color as well as the current president of the Print Suppliers Group,
"There are two things I tried to teach Dennis,” Mr. Curtin said. “There is never time to do things right but there is always time to do them over, and second, to buy only what you really need and not what you want. I lived through the depths of the Depression and have never forgotten that.”
Dennis Curtin said he has learned a lot from his dad.
“My dad taught me to focus, slow down on my reaction, take a step back and think it through before I do something,” he said. “I also learned what a wonderful thing it is to be debt-free.”
Outside of work, Mr. Curtin is an avid collector of timepieces.
“I collect and restore antique clocks, and am a past treasurer of the National Association of Watch Collectors, a 23,000-member organization,” Mr. Curtin said. “I have 130 clocks in our house, and a machine shop to make and repair parts.”
For Mr. Curtin, success in business has ultimately been the result of constant effort and hustle.
“Being in business is like running up a down escalator,” Mr. Curtin said. “If you stop running, you go down. You always have to develop new products, seeing where we can fit in.”