Trending Content

50 Years of AICC

By AICC Staff

January 23, 2024

1974–1979: Stronger Together

Gene Macchi, president of the Independent Corrugated Container Corp., uses a bundle of sticks to show the strength of the independent when they stand together.

In November 1974 at Stouffer’s Riverfront Towers in St. Louis, 91 attendees representing 54 independent box plants came together united by a need to survive.

Gene Macchi, president of the Independent Corrugated Container Corp., stood in front of this room full of friends and competitors and broke a stick.

Joseph R. Palmeri, president and chief operating officer of Jamestown Container Cos. in Falconer, New York, recounted the story for AICC’s 40th anniversary: “He then tried to break a whole handful of branches, making the point how much harder it was to break.”

Macchi’s message to the group was that if all independents joined together in the new association, they would be much stronger together than alone. Thus, AICC started its journey to become the voice of the independent.

Independents were in crisis. Sheet supply was tighter than they had ever seen.

Jim Kowall, AICC’s first president and then-owner of Great Northern Packaging Corp. in Grand Rapids, Michigan, recalled that he, George Arvanigian of Arvco Container Corp., Robert Cravens of Container Service Corp., and others spent many hours and traveled many miles recruiting others to their common cause. In 1974, conditions in the industry would make their work easier.

“In the summer of 1974, Jamestown Container was having a tough time getting sheets,” Palmeri wrote. “Our major supplier had told us they could only run 50% of our loads, and for us, that was a loss of 120,000 square feet each day.”

AICC’s founding members at the Association’s first national meeting in St. Louis in 1974.

According to Palmeri, suppliers were telling him the reason was a shortage of containerboard, but he and his partner didn’t really buy it. So, they and another independent in the Buffalo area began investigating the installation of their own corrugator. “We brought in a consultant named Jim Levine, who happened to tell us about a new association that was trying to get started that would just represent independent boxmakers. The more he told us, the more we were interested,” said Palmeri.

Levine had formerly worked for the Fibre Box Association in Chicago and was consulting to companies in the industry. He was also a good friend of Kowall and acted as an ambassador for the national association Kowall, Cravens, Arvanigian, and others were trying to form.

The late Hugh Cameron, then-president of Cameron Packaging and one of the founders from Canada, said during an interview several years ago that he became a member because he “wanted to have communications with other independents who had the same problems I was having.” Cameron remembered that he called others in Ontario and Québec. “Only Keith Munt, owner of ProPak, and Danny McKeon, who had two sheet plants in Toronto, agreed to come with me to the first meeting in St. Louis. One of our main concerns was the supply of sheets plus linerboard and medium.”

In these early years, AICC focused primarily on the supply of paper to independents, the issue of competitiveness, and the development of a level playing field for independent owners. But more practical reasons for joining forces—such as providing affordable employee benefits and industry training, which were previously unavailable to independent companies—also became apparent.

AICC’s notable accomplishments in those first five years included:

    • The creation of the Corrugated Insurers Association, an offshore insurance company devised to provide affordable health, life, and workers’ compensation insurance for members.
    • Successful opposition run in regard to Conrail freight surcharges, which would have added substantially to freight costs for containerboard.
    • In 1978, AICC developed the first corrugated industry sales training program for its members, called “AID: Applied Interaction Development.”
    • In 1979, AICC negotiated a 10-year supply agreement with International Paper Co. after it acquired the Pineville Kraft Paper Mill, a key supplier to many independent converters. This became the model for “set-aside” agreements, which helped to ensure supply. These and other initiatives spurred membership growth. By 1980, AICC had more than 300 members.

Palmeri, summarizing his view of AICC’s founding several years ago, said, “The conditions that existed in the 1970s are gone, thanks to Jack Schwarz, Hans Koch, and others who started so many sheet feeders.”

Palmeri believed the introduction of the sheet feeder has insulated the independent sheet plant from supply concerns. “I doubt if there are many members still in the industry who will ever go through the situation I’ve described,” he said. “But I think it’s important that our membership knows how this Association started.”

How Did They End Up in That Room in 1974?

AICC was not the first effort to bring together independents. Before AICC as we know it today, there was the Executive Society of Corrugated Sheet Convertors (ESCSC).

Jim Kowall, AICC’s first president and then-owner of Great Northern Packaging Corp. in Grand Rapids, Michigan, wrote on the occasion of AICC’s 20th anniversary in 1994 that efforts to start an association for sheet plants actually preceded AICC by at least three years. “I sold corrugated sheets to various companies in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio, and some knew little relative to marketing and manufacturing costs,” Kowall recalled. “I contacted them by phone relative to the idea of starting a Michigan-Indiana trade association.”

He said some of the members suggested there should be a national association, and so a meeting was held in September 1971 in Battle Creek, Michigan. At that meeting the ESCSC was established. The group held meetings nine times per year and, in Kowall’s words, “the association became a valuable business tool.”

An exploratory meeting for this national organization was held September 21, 1974, at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Chicago. The 60 representatives there coined the name National Association of Independent Convertors, a name later changed to the Association of Independent Corrugated Converters to accommodate members from Canada. At that meeting, 30 members were added.

Past Presidents and Chairmen

1974–1975 James Kowall Great Northern Packaging
1975–1976 Eugene Macchi Indep. Corrugated Container Corp. of America
1976–1977 Hugh Cameron Cameron Packaging
1977–1978 J. Richard Troll Lawless Container Corp.
1978–1979 Robert Cravens Container Service Corp.
1979–1980 Joseph Armstrong Krafcor

AICC’s Founding Members

AICC archives show the following companies present at AICC’s first national meeting in November 1974 at the Stouffer’s Riverfront Towers in St. Louis. They are considered AICC’s founding members. Those in bold are still in business under the same (or a similar) name. Those with an asterisk are still in business but were acquired by the company in parentheses:

    • Advance Packaging (PCA)*
    • American Packaging Corp. (Lawrence Paper)*
    • Arvco Container
    • Bates Container (Smurfit Kappa)*
    • Blossomland Container
    • Borders Container
    • Cameron Packaging
    • Central Container
    • Centralia Container
    • Coast Packaging Materials
    • Commander Packaging
    • Condura Box
    • Container Service
    • Cor-Box (Sonoco)*
    • Decatur Container (Akers Packaging Service)*
    • Delta Container
    • A Goodenough Box
    • Great Northern Packaging
    • Independent Corrugated Container Corporation of North America
    • Jamestown Container
    • Krafcor (IP)*
    • Lawless Container
    • Mall City Containers (Hood Container)*
    • Michiana Container
    • Michigan Packaging Co. (Greif)*
    • Mid-Michigan Container
    • Monarch Box & Paper
    • Nor East Packaging
    • Northern Package
    • O’Grady Containers (IP)*
    • Omaha Box Co. (Liberty Diversified)*
    • Orchard Consolidated Industries
    • Paragon Packaging Products
    • Powderly Container (S.E.M.O)*
    • Queen City Container (Sumter Packaging)*
    • R and D Incorporated
    • Select Carton Service Ltd. (Central Group)*
    • Sentinel Container
    • Shillington Box (The Royal Group)*
    • Specialty Container (Supply One)*
    • StandFast Packaging Products
    • Tate Containers (IP)*
    • Taylor Paper Corp. of St. Louis
    • Triangle Container (Menasha)*
    • Tri-Pack (Smurfit Kappa)*
    • Western Reserve Container

Names Who Made AICC

George B. Arvanigian was the president and founder of Arvco Container Corp. in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Arvanigian was an early member of the Executive Society of Corrugated Sheet Convertors (ESCSC). According to Jim Kowall, Arvanigian provided “half the original seed money” to make AICC possible. Arvanigian served as the seventh president of AICC in 1980–1981.

Bill Cox served briefly as AICC’s first executive director in 1978. About Cox, Jim Kowall wrote, “AICC may have been extinguished had it not been for the efforts of Bill Cox during 1978.”

Robert D. “Bob” Cravens was president of the Container Service Corp. in Dowagiac, Michigan. He was also a member of the original Michigan-Indiana association, and he and his company became founding members of AICC. Cravens served as AICC’s fifth president in 1978–1979.

James L. “Jim” Kowall was president of Great Northern Packaging Corp. in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was a catalyst in the formation of the ESCSC, with members primarily in Michigan and Indiana. Kowall used his contacts in this group to springboard the concept of a national association. Kowall served as AICC’s first president in 1974–1975.

Jim Levine worked for the Fibre Box Association in Chicago, and in the early 1970s, he was an industry consultant. Along with Kowall, he was an early advocate of a group to represent independent converters, and he was an informal ambassador to many other independents in “talking up” the concept and encouraging their participation.

Post Tags