Turning the page
A new age: Part 5 in the Worzalla series
By Kris Leonhardt
When the company formed the employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), they created nine directors – three employee directors, three management directors including the CEO and CFO, and three outside directors – who meet quarterly.
“We don’t have an absentee owner in New York City or Hawaii or Florida that we’re taking x amount of percent off of the top and mailing a check every month. When we make money, we reinvest in the company. There is no hidden agenda; there is no hidden ownership. We really reinvest in the company and our people,” said Worzalla CEO Jim Fetherston. “That’s the secret, and I think that is a really good structure for a manufacturing kind of organization.”
And that structure has certainly worked for Worzalla. In 1998, the company began an expansion project to add 100,000 square feet to expand to 320,000.
In 1999, sales surpassed $55 million, with 450 associates employed.
In October 2019, Worzalla announced the investing of $12.5 million in new equipment and capital improvements to the company’s Stevens Point facility.
Worzalla’s modernization plan consisted of a 50,000 square-foot addition to Worzalla’s Jefferson Street facilities, a new Heidelberg 106 press, and a Kolbus perfect binder.
The company celebrated the completion of the project this summer and expected to achieve a 30 percent increase in production levels, while hiring about 50 new associates.
Today, the company focuses on printing alone.
“The company is really not a publisher right now; we have specialized just in the printing side. We were a publisher up until the late 80s and that business was divested. But, the company had been known as Worzalla Publishing since 1892, so in the community, everybody thinks of us as Worzalla Publishing,” Fetherston explained.
“(As) you (come) in our front entrance, you’ll notice that there is a steel-letter sign and it is embedded in the brick or stone that says ‘Worzalla Publishing;’ that is the only place you’ll see that, because it is kind of a homage to the past. We’ve kept that sign, but legally we are Worzalla, Inc.; and, we are not a publisher.
“The difference between the two is: the publisher is the entity that works directly with the author and gets the manuscript of the book ready for printing. They own the content, along with the author, of the publication.
“We do not own the content. We are licensed to take that content and put it into book form, but we do not have any rights to that content after the book is printed, or even when it is being printed.“
Next week: The products