Executive Q&A: Joseph Raccuia, CEO of Finch Paper

Q: Tell us about your company, the segment of the market it serves, and who you consider to be your core users.

A: Finch Paper is a fully integrated mill that manufactures high-quality, uncoated printing papers. We’re known among printers, designers, and our industry peers for the quality of our papers, our personal service, and our “feet-in-the-forest” approach to environmental stewardship.

Our lines of uncoated papers serve the book publishing, direct mail, transpromo, and graphic arts segments, and are designed for printers who own both traditional offset presses as well as digital presses. Finch no longer is content on being a traditional paper manufacturer, and we are transforming our company into a custom solutions provider that can tailor products and services specific to our customers’ needs.

Our flagship grades include Finch Fine and Finch Opaque and are favored among printers for their high brightness and smooth surface. Meanwhile, we’ve emerged on the leading edge of the digital space with Finch Fine iD, engineered for HP Indigo presses, and Finch Inkjet Pi and Finch dyeJet, optimized for either pigment or dye-based inkjet systems, respectively.

Q: What is your background and how did you get involved with your company?

A: I’m a Brooklyn kid, and I’ve grown to love this area and the people in the greater Glens Falls, NY community.

I joined Finch on Feb. 1, 2009, after serving for three years (1998-2001) as president and CEO of Encore Paper Co. in South Glens Falls—directly across the Hudson River from the Finch Paper mill. Upon SCA Tissue’s purchase of Encore Paper in 2001, I became CEO of SCA’s North American operations and served as CEO for six years. In a past life, I held sales and management positions with Colgate Palmolive and Wisconsin Tissue.

At SCA we grew the business from $650 million to over $1 billion; I also oversaw the development of a fully integrated, greenfield tissue manufacturing facility in Alabama. I am especially proud of my work with the United Steel Workers (USW) union that resulted in a formal partnership to engage in an open and honest relationship with one another--one that looks out for the best interests of business and employees.

Q: What do you consider to be your greatest achievement in this market?

A: One of our greatest achievements at Finch thus far would have to be transforming the culture here to be a more collaborative, custom solutions provider. We are in the process of training our staff in high-performance work systems that will enable us to be more flexible and responsive to our customers’ needs—knowing that, at the end of the day, the customer sits at the top of our priority list.

I’m proud to say that since 2009, our EBIDTA has been steadily rising. Finch has emerged in a declining market as a company that is not only viable and thriving, but also seeking out opportunities to grow through sensible partnerships and acquisitions.

I am also very proud of our commitment to sustainable forestry. All of our fiber is third-party certified to the standards of either FSC and/or SFI. We have a very successful partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) that began in 2007, when we sold them our northern landholdings: more than 160,000 acres. Finch foresters were then hired back by the TNC to manage Adirondack lands, continuing our long legacy of sustainable forestry and helping to keep forestland as open space.

Q: If you could change anything, either about your career, your company, or the market as a whole, what would it be and why?

A: As far as my career is concerned, I have been blessed. Regarding the industry or market, I’d love to see increased demand, higher prices, and lower raw material and energy costs…but wouldn’t we all? Actually, my Finch colleagues and I would all like to see an increase in public understanding and appreciation for paper as the tremendously useful, environmentally sound, renewable, and recyclable resource that it is. I would couple that with an increased appreciation for the forest products industry in general, and how our industry does more to safeguard the future of America’s forests than any other group, public or private, could ever hope to achieve.

We are working on getting those precise messages out to the world. Our industry has a vested interest in ensuring that America’s forests continue to grow and thrive in perpetuity. Forests are our lifeblood, and in keeping those forests healthy and growing and providing wood for essential products, we also help those forests pull carbon from our air, filter our water, and provide a diversity of wildlife habitat. The Society of American Foresters, of which Finch Vice President Roger Dziengeleski is the 2011 president, likes to say, “Trees are the answer” to so many of society’s challenges. I’d like everyone to understand and accept the accuracy and power of this statement.

Q: What do you consider to be the greatest challenge for the industry right now?

A: There are many. Our nation’s continuing economic slump continues to wear at our industry and most others. We need to find solutions to runaway taxes and healthcare costs. We must ensure that new state and federal environmental regulations result in demonstrable benefits and that compliance is technologically achievable and financially feasible. We need to ensure that American producers can compete with our foreign competitors. And for our market segment, specifically, we need to continue to make the capacity adjustments that are necessary in the realities of the 21st century marketplace. Even given all these challenges, I remain optimistic about the resiliency of our industry in general and in the future of Finch Paper in particular.

Q: What do you consider to be the greatest asset for the industry right now?

A: I am extremely encouraged by the talent that our industry is attracting these days. At Finch, we are seeing an influx of extremely bright, driven, experienced people who are excited to be part of our company. I’m talking about engineers, new product development specialists, marketers, and candidates with PhDs and master’s degrees. In our evolving role as a Custom Solution Provider, ideas are our most important currency, and we are extremely rich in that area right now.

Q: What are the biggest changes to the way we communicate with one another in the past few years? How would you recommend this industry take advantage of that?

A: Electronic media and the ability to instantly communicate have become commonplace. Paper mills are increasingly taking advantages of these tools to communicate directly with different end-users--most importantly, printers. For example, we are able to collect feedback from our print customers through online surveys and follow through on our unique value proposition as a supplier that truly believes the customer comes first.

Also, with the ability to target your audience unlike ever before, we no longer have to rely on the distributors to share information and introduce Finch to the market. Faster communication with our customers has helped to close the loop, enabling us to serve individual as well as group needs much faster and precisely than ever before. We’re listening to the market in real-time, and therefore able to better predict market moves and prepare accordingly.

Q: Looking ahead, what major innovations or technologies do you believe will shape the future of the industry? Why?

A: There’s no question that inkjet developments are the driving force and trend to watch in the future of this industry. Finch has taken on the task of helping to educate the industry about the critical influence that paper makes in the production and success of a job. Those who have embraced the adoption of newer inkjet presses early in the game understand that optimizing their inkjet paper choice allows them to reap important efficiency and quality benefits, and also gives them the ability to expand into new markets.

We’ve stayed at the forefront of this trend, bolstering our research and development team and digital sales team, to specifically concentrate on extensive research into the inkjet space. As a result, we’ve armed ourselves with the information and research to continue to develop solutions that address this rapidly expanding market. We’ve unveiled specific sheets for both pigment and dye-based systems, Finch Inkjet Pi and Finch dyeJet, and are continuously working to provide the market with the next best technology, based on customers’ specific needs and applications.

Q: What one piece of advice would you like to give to printers and others involved in this industry?

A: People need to know that paper formulations can be modified specifically for individual customers. By partnering with a mill like Finch, printers and brand owners can improve overall quality and save money. If a stocked product isn’t the right fit, we will optimize paper formulations exclusively for customers’ press, budget, and application requirements. The numbers are substantial, and so—from one CEO to another—it would behoove you to take a look.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with Printing News readers?

A: I encourage the printing community to view Finch Paper as a resource; not just a paper manufacturer. Our sales and technical teams are available to answer questions, trouble-shoot challenges, and develop solutions that work for printers and their customers. “Go With Finch” is our core message; we are your “go-to” partner.