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By AICC Staff

July 15, 2020

Photos courtesy of PDI.

Spend a few minutes with Glenn Houston, vice president and a founding partner of the Phipps Dickson Integria Group Inc. (PDI), and one thing becomes immediately apparent: He enjoys his work, values his relationships with PDI’s employees and customers, and is not going to let anything stop him.

For Houston, it’s all about service. Not just the big moments like getting the job done right the first time and delivering it on time, but it is also about paying attention to the little things that matter—details like wrapping pallets properly and the way orders are delivered. PDI understands that they are beholden to both their customers and their customers’ customers.

PDI Pressman Martin Gagnon (left) and Vice President Glenn Houston hard at work with smiles under their safe face coverings.

What drives Houston? He says the printing business is simply in his blood. He took over his family’s third-generation printing business, Houston Press, in 1998. His company specialized in high-end printing for the fashion, pharmaceutical, and real estate industries. However, just a few years after taking the helm, Houston ran into his first hurdle. In 2001, there was a downturn in the printing business in general. Then 9/11 happened, and many small printing houses were struggling. Houston describes that time as an “aha! moment” for his medium-sized company. He says it was a time when you either went big or went home. He decided to go big and began exploring mergers and acquisitions.

Houston was having a difficult time finding a company that would be the right fit for Houston Press. Serendipitously, while pumping gas, he ran into one of his competitors, Gaetano DiTrapani, then-president and co-owner of Phipps Dickson. After talking for a few minutes, they decided to meet again and continue the conversation. It was at that lunch meeting that it became clear—Houston found his future partner. At the end of 2003, the two companies merged.

“It was a match made in heaven,” says Houston. “We’re still together today, and Gaetano, PDI’s CEO, has been my mentor since the very beginning.”

The expanded company was doing well and growing. In 2007, they merged again with another company that happened to be larger—Integria Inc.—adding their third partner and man with a vision: Jamie Barbieri, current president of PDI. Houston was about to face his next hurdle, but this time, he was part of a strong team. PDI had just finished consolidating all of its operations under a single roof in a new 100,000-square-foot facility and purchased a Manroland 900 six-color 56-inch press—then the 2008 market crash hit.

Houston says that spending that kind of money and making such significant changes during that time was scary, scary stuff. But they leaned in and stuck with their plan. “There are always going to be ups and downs,” Houston says. “You have to believe in yourself and believe in what you are doing.”

Houston says that hindsight is 20/20, and he now knows that big move helped them weather the recession. With the move and merger, they were not only consolidating buildings, but also rationalizing processes, procedures, and personnel. But that was not the only thing that helped them. “The best decision we made was buying that Manroland 900,” he says.

When they bought the press, there was still a strong demand for print. However, PDI knew they would soon be competing against the web market. They say when one door closes, another opens. Well, that Manroland 900 press opened the door to the AICC marketplace. They began developing relationships inside of the corrugated market, and they found that business to be an excellent fit for them. “We’re glad to be part of AICC because we have a lot of our experience and knowledge to offer its members, and we want to expand and grow within this market,” Houston says. “AICC will help us do that.”

Right now, PDI’s primary territory is Montréal and spreading out into the province of Québec. “We currently do some business in the U.S. and Ontario, but we are poised for growth right now and have the capacity to expand,” Houston says. “Anyone within a six-hour drive of Montréal is the perfect customer for PDI.”

That includes cities such as Boston, New York, and Toronto, as well as upstate New York cities such as Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse.

Another advantage that has set PDI up to be able to expand the business is the addition of its fourth partner, Vice President of Finance Michelina La Fratta. La Fratta joined PDI in 2009, and Houston says they could not possibly live without her.

It’s hard to look at PDI’s history and how they survived—and thrived—through troubling times and to not think about what is in store for them during these confusing and unpredictable times. Houston says that what the world is going through right now is so different. He’s far more concerned than he was in 2008 when, admittedly, the situation looked rather dire and no one knew how long the recession would last. “I can’t tell you yet what I’m going to take from the situation that we’re living in right now,” he says. “Let’s talk again in a year from now.”

One thing that is clear is that if anyone can thrive in this current climate, it is Houston, his partners, and the employees that make PDI what it is today. Leadership’s willingness to continue investing in their business is one reason, but Houston is quick to point out how much of their success is owed to their employees. He gives credit to the entire team, including estimation and planning, prepress and press operators, and those who work in finishing and shipping. Everyone plays a role in the company’s success.

You can see this evidence of PDI’s expertise in the strong relationships they have with their customers. Houston says PDI is always listening—listening to the advice from suppliers and their customers and then implementing that advice in their business. “Strong bonds and relationships that last are crucial,” he says. “You cannot build those relationships quickly. You cannot rush them. The tortoise always wins the race.”

Sidebar: G7 Master Status

Color is very important to customers, especially when it comes to branding. It is not OK to get something close to right. It has to be exact. But how do you know that what you see on the screen will be the same as what is printing on your press and that you’re perfecting your client’s color?

G7 is a global set of specifications, created by Idealliance, for “achieving visual similarity across all print processes.” The G7 method ensures that there will be a similarity in appearance across all devices.

G7 Master Status is granted only to facilities that have calibrated equipment and systems to G7 gray balance and neutral tone curves and are capable of delivering G7 proofs and print products.

Glenn Houston, vice president and a founding partner of PDI, says there is a huge gain for boxmakers when it comes to critical cycle time and the cost distribution of proofs for approval. There is also a significant convenience benefit of controlling this process in-house and close to all stakeholders involved in the approval process.

You can find more information about the G7 Method on the Idealliance website (, or contact Houston. He can break it down for you.

Virginia Humphrey is director of membership and marketing at AICC. She can be reached at 703-535-1383 or”