33rd Annual Ben Franklin Awards Dinner

By John Gumina

printing week

Stellar awardees; meaningful program; great camaraderie and fine dining!

Giving no more than a nod to an icy blast of January weather, over 200 PIM members and vendor representatives, family, friends and associates joined together Tuesday, January 12th at the renowned Michigan Printing Week Ben Franklin Awards Dinner.

The event, taking place at Laurel Manor in Livonia, saw two coveted awards given: Individual of the Year was garnered by Julie McFarland of McNaughton & Gunn in Saline; the Corporation of the Year went to Wolverine Solutions Group of Detroit. Along with these awards, six Michigan college students enrolled in printing/graphics programs were Scholarship Recipients.

And once again, Ben Franklin joined us for the fun, along with his wife Deborah!

The evening was introduced by Kevin Donley of Adair Graphic Communications who noted that the Printing Week Dinner is the one time each year that so many people associated with the printing and graphics industry in Michigan get together for a unique networking opportunity.

He noted, as well, that today marked the 310th anniversary of Ben Franklin’s birth, a man whose life was a mix of adversity and perseverance but filled with overriding innovation. All of these, Kevin made clear, were part and parcel to the printing and graphics industry.

“Today there are so many challenges,” he stated. Among them: the economic slowdown of late 2000 that lingers; and, the fast-changing technology impacting the industry, including digital, mobile and wireless realities. All need to be integrated.

“Success requires innovation, even along with risk,” Kevin said, adding that there were many examples of companies and individuals at the Awards Dinner that recognized this. And along with this was a tone of optimism that clearly ensures the printing and graphics industry will prevail.

Introducing Corporation of the Year recipient Wolverine Solutions Group was Tip Quilter of Tip Quilter & Associates, LLC. He is Wolverine’s leadership coach and strategy advisor.

Tip said Wolverine’s success was “no magic,” but a combination of “grit, determination and commitment” that has brought it the success it enjoys today.

Wolverine Solutions Group was founded in 1978 by Bob Tokar as Wolverine Mailing & Packaging, occupying 4,000 square feet of space on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit. Its growth from there saw it move to 30,000 square feet, then to a facility with 180,000 square feet. It focused on the opportunities that the direct mail business offered, especially during the 1980’s and 1990’s, and made early entry into the digital print business.

High-speed multiline, automated sorting equipment came next, followed by continuous variable digital web presses. Wolverine, in fact, was one of the first companies to drive the presses from a PC platform.

By the early 2000’s Wolverine leadership knew it had outgrown its “mailing” nameplate; thus, the company name changed to Wolverine Solutions Group to better reflect its provision of solutions in the direct communications business. Today, Wolverine enjoys an active client base of over 300.

Tip noted that succession and quality people within the company were major factors in the 39% growth Wolverine has enjoyed as a result of its transformation through the years. He added: “Wolverine is receiving this award tonight because of success driven by hard work.”

At this point, Tip asked a number of employees of Wolverine Solutions Group to join him on stage. In a few moments, there were nearly 20 of them standing either side of him! He asked them if the hard work of change to better the organization had been easy. They exclaimed, “No!” But was it worth it, he asked. They joined in a resounding “Yes!”

Among those joining Tip on stage was Robert Tokar, the son of Wolverine’s founder, who began working at Wolverine shortly after its doors opened. Today, he is CEO.

Robert stated that he has enjoyed the hard work and the “journey” at Wolverine through so many years and that he has looked at life as the “glass half full,” just as his father did.

“And my dad always told me: “Always work to better yourself.’” Robert also especially thanked his wife, Felicia, for “staying with me” through all the hard work of being involved with a successful business.

Referring to the employees on stage with him, Robert said “This is what it’s all about; our most important asset is the right people.” He added that he has always taken the attitude that he will let them be creative, make their own choices, and make decisions that they feel would be best for the company and its clients.

Introducing the Individual of the Year Award recipient was Jim Clark, Director of Operations at McNaughton & Gunn, a renowned book printer. He noted that winner Julie McFarland’s important and steadily increasing responsibilities through the years with the company began in 1990 when she took the Assistant Controller position. She went next to Controller, then COO, then to CEO, and presently is President.

Jim also listed many of Julie’s numerous personal and civic honors and appointments, including Treasurer for the Ann Arbor Graphic Arts Memorial Foundation; Past President and Treasurer of the Saline Area Chamber of Commerce; United Way and Junior Achievement volunteer. In 2003, Business Direct Weekly named her one of the “Most Influential Women.” “Today, McNaughton & Gunn is profitable because of Julie,” Jim added.

Noting that the company has sales of $25 million annually, Clark called Julie “a great leader” who has been at the helm for the past 14 years. He stated: “And we are still producing books in this challenging industry!”

In 2015, McNaughton & Gunn celebrated 40 years in the business and has received numerous awards including: The Principal’s “One of the 10 Best Companies for Employee Financial Security; Printing Industries of America’s “Best of the Best Workplaces in America; and one of Crain’s Detroit Business’ “Cool Places to Work.” In 2006, McNaughton & Gunn received Printing Week Association’s corporate Ben Franklin award.

At the podium, Julie stated that she feels “very lucky to be part of this industry.”

She added that she is passionate about books because they “allow us to explore emotions, explore new worlds, and to learn.” The industry also captures history and gives us a view of “where we can go,” she said.

Julie also stated that she is very happy to be a part of a family business, noting that her father, Bob McNaughton, was one of the company’s founding partners over 40 years ago. She recalled how in the early days, the “business phone was in the living room and we bound books in the garage.”

Julie said that in order to be successful, one had to “jump at opportunities as quickly as conclusions.” She urged all in the room to recognize that technology is impacting the industry, but that we must “take our expertise and our experiences” and work with technology.

Each year, the Michigan Printing Week Association, Printing Industries of Michigan and their numerous partners pool resources to provide scholarships to worthy college students in the printing and graphics curriculums.

This year’s recipients of Graphics Arts Scholarships were:

Ferris State University
Karen Lynn Readon and Carly DeWeert

Western Michigan University
Adrianna Bird, Andrew Bogan, Bradley Green and Sarah Meldrum

Congratulations to all! Perhaps the words of Ben Franklin, printed in the Award Dinner program book, offer some of the sagest advice for members of the printing and graphics industry today:

‘Tis true there is much to be done, and perhaps you are weak handed, but stick to it steadily, and you will see great effects, for constant dropping wears away stones, and by diligence and patience the mouse ate in two the cable; and little strokes fell great oaks.”

She concluded: “We need to continue to take pride in our industry, and color our world in print!”

Each year, the Michigan Printing Week Association, Printing Industries of Michigan and their numerous partners pool resources to provide scholarships to worthy college students in the printing and graphics curriculums.

Health Insurance

Health Insurance

BCBSM has individual health insurance plans available to PIM members. Association Benefits Company, an authorized independent agency with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, is here to help you take care of your families and your employees. Call them today to discuss the individual and group options available to you. They work with all agents!

Description for Individual Coverage:

Introducing MyBlueSM– Individual Coverage direct with BCBSM

Printing Industries of Michigan now offers new BCBSM health care plans for individuals and families at all stages of life. Whether you’re single, a recent college graduate, self-employed, starting a family, or considering early retirement, BCBSM has a plan to meet your needs and budget. Click here for eligibility, review plan options and to enroll on line!

Description for Group Coverage:

Employers providing health insurance for employees

Printing Industries of Michigan now offers new BCBSM health care plans for individuals and families at all stages of life. Whether you’re single, a recent college graduate, self-employed, starting a family, or considering early retirement, BCBSM has a plan to meet your needs and budget. Click here to get started with our BCBSM/BCN Administrator!

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