When Jack W. Fowler, a Scottsdale, Ariz., businessman, was appointed president and chief executive officer of Baltimore-based Arcata Graphics Co. last month, it was like a homecoming.
Arcata, which operates four printing plants and eight book
manufacturing plants around the country, "really is a sleeping giant in our industry, and I wanted to be a part of it," Mr. Fowler explained in a recent telephone interview from the company's Nashville, Tenn., printing plant.
"I've worked with Arcata, I've competed with them, I've watched them and I like what I see," he added.
At the time of his interview, Mr. Fowler was in the middle of a get-acquainted tour of Arcata's plants, which are scattered from Buffalo, N.Y., and Nashville, Tenn., to Boston; Fairfield, Pa.; Martinsburg, W.Va.; Kingsport and Clarksville, Tenn.; and San Jose, Calif.
The Johnson City, Tenn., native knew the printing industry, however, even before his graduation from East Tennessee State University in 1957. He worked in the pressroom of Kingsport Press, in Kingsport, during college and later became a salesman for the company in Chicago.
Mr. Fowler was a sales manager for Plympton Press, in Norwood, Mass., from 1965 to 1967, and then joined Arcata. In 1971 he joined Krueger as a marketing executive. He was named president and chief executive officer of the company in 1978, and the title of chairman was added in 1987.
When he left, Krueger had approximately $375 million in annual sales and 6,800 employees, both in its own plants and in a joint venture the company had with Ringier, AG., of Zurich, Switzerland, Mr. Fowler said.
In 1989, Ringier bought Krueger and moved the headquarters to Chicago. "I elected not to work any more. So I stayed in Scottsdale and goofed off for two years," Mr. Fowler said.
"Goofing off" included managing personal investments, looking after a waste management company and serving on the board of directors of the Northern Trust Bank of Arizona, a subsidiary of a large Chicago bank, he said.
The offer to return to Arcata, a company with 7,500 employees and annual sales of more than $550 million, "offered a lot of intrigue," however. Besides, said Mr. Fowler, who bought a house on Gibson Island, "I've always wanted to live on the Maryland shore."
And the future? "My 'big plans' for this company are to continue to grow it and make it even better than it is," Mr. Fowler replied.
Nationally circulated magazines such as Money, U.S. News and World Report, Car and Driver, Bon Appetit, Stereo Review and the U.S. edition of Reader's Digest are printed at Arcata plants.
The company, owned by Arcata Corp., a privately held company based in San Francisco, also manufactures hard-cover books for Simon & Schuster, Random House Inc., Thomas Nelson Publishers, Time-Warner Inc., HarperCollins and Macmillan.
Not only is there a serious overcapacity in the printing industry, but many printers also have leveraged their operations to a dangerous degree, Mr. Fowler said. "The market is highly competitive, and I think there's room for those who are good and strong to capture it."
Arcata, he added, "has good manufacturing facilities, a superb customer base and good people. We have all of the ingredients for us to do the capturing."