Welcome, AICC 2018–2019 Chair Joe Palmeri!
By AICC Staff
December 5, 2018
Joseph M. Palmeri’s life would be a lot different if his dad had been less ambitious—or if his father had worked for a mean-spirited boss who didn’t want to see his employees do well. Of course, many people’s fortunes are made or lost by extenuating circumstances. Still, it’s an interesting story, how the 57-year-old Palmeri came to have the title of president, corrugated packaging, at Jamestown Container Cos., which is headquartered in Falconer, a small village near Jamestown, N.Y. Palmeri, however, is based out of Macedonia, Ohio, near Cleveland. Jamestown Container has five manufacturing plants.
Palmeri’s father, Joseph R. Palmeri, was 18 years old in March 1956, when Jamestown Container was founded by Glenn Janowsky. Before 1956, Janowsky was working for a container company in Buffalo when he decided to start his company. He relocated to Jamestown, which explains how the organization got its name. Janowsky started his business with five employees, and Joseph R. Palmeri, who started off running machines, worked his way up, becoming a supervisor, then the plant manager, then the general manager, and eventually up to an ownership position. The elder Palmeri is still working for the company as its chief operations officer. Janowsky passed away in 2006 at the age of 80. His son, Bruce Janowsky, is Jamestown Container’s CEO.
“My master’s thesis was on water-based flexographic ink specifications and the effect they have on the ability to print within tolerance UPS symbols on single-wall corrugated board. Pretty exciting stuff.”
Joseph M. Palmeri—or Joe, as everyone calls him—has been immersed in the packaging industry from his childhood days. Well, we’ll let part of our interview with him tell the next part of his story.
BoxScore: Did you know as a kid that you’d want to be part of this business?
Palmeri: I was exposed to it early. I would go down to the plant and do odd jobs for extra money, like painting or weeding and trimming outside the building. But actually, during summers in high school and college, I always worked somewhere else. I’d work at supermarkets, for instance. I never worked in the plant until I went to graduate school.
BoxScore: So, was it in graduate school that you decided to join the business?
Palmeri: Along those lines. I was an economics major at Niagara University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in economics. After graduating, I went to work on my master’s degree. I have a Master of Science in packaging from the Rochester Institute of Technology. My master’s thesis was on water-based flexographic ink specifications and the effect they have on the ability to print within tolerance UPS symbols on single-wall corrugated board. Pretty exciting stuff. I started working at our sheet plant in Medina, N.Y., while I was working on my master’s. I started there on March 26, 1984.
BoxScore: What were you working on at the sheet plant back then?
Palmeri: I started working in the factory on various machines. It’s the best way to learn the business. The very first thing I did, day one, was working on [a] stitcher, doing boxes for Fisher-Price toys. A few of the guys I worked with back then in the factory are still working for us today in various office positions. I eventually worked my way up to many of the different departments in that location and corporately—areas such as design, customer service, quality, scheduling, shipping, supervision, plant manager, general manager, etc.
“I grew up going to AICC meetings. I’ve been attending them since I was 13 or 14 years old. I’d sit there listening to these guys talking with my dad about cardboard and packaging.”
BoxScore: So, what do you enjoy about being in this industry?
Palmeri: I like the manufacturing side. I like the machinery. Everything about it. In fact, yesterday, we were having a meeting in the conference room, and you could hear the die cutter just pounding. It’s the sound it makes when the cutting die is striking the corrugated sheet against the blanket and thus cutting out the shape. Hearing that pounding means it’s running fast, and fast is fun. Those of us in [the] meeting who had ever worked in the plant just looked at each other and smiled. It’s a fun sound. No matter if it’s a die cutter, flexo folder gluer, or specialty gluer, you don’t get tired of the sound and watching it run. It also brings back memories when you were the one operating it or feeding it or trying to keep up tailing off it. Like I said, fast is fun … and the creative process of the business is rewarding, too. You’re creating something that the consumer uses, and then he or she can recycle it, and then they’ve got to buy a new one. [Laughs.] But, you know, I grew up around all of this. I grew up going to AICC meetings. I’ve been attending them since I was 13 or 14 years old. I’d sit there listening to these guys talking with my dad about cardboard and packaging.
A Husband, a Father, a Leader
Palmeri’s career flourished, and he fortunately did well with his personal life as well. Palmeri has been happily married for 31 years; his wife, Dianna, is a real estate agent with Howard Hanna Real Estate Services. They moved to Macedonia in 1997 after Jamestown purchased a sheet plant from Willamette Industries. “That’s when Jamestown Container entered the Ohio market,” Palmeri says. “I was the plant manager back then.”
The Palmeris have four children, most of them grown and all living productive lives. Their daughter Alison, 28, is an attorney in Pittsburgh, working for a regulatory compliance consulting firm. Elliot, 25, is an athletic trainer and currently doing a graduate internship in athletic training at Thiel College. Gabrielle, 22, is a senior at the University of Dayton, majoring in dietetics. Their son Christopher, 26, is the third generation of Palmeris to work at Jamestown Container, employed as a technical advisor.
Palmeri has been involved with AICC since he was a teenager and a member for quite a number of years, and he’s taken on a number of leadership roles in AICC as well. So, it’s no surprise that he was made the most recent Chair. It was a path he has been on for a long time.
BoxScore: What do you hope to accomplish as the 2018–2019 AICC Chair?
Palmeri: My theme is to continue with the AICC tagline: “When you invest and engage, AICC will deliver success.” No matter what your size, whether you’re a small plant or a mature company that’s been around forever, you aren’t too small or big for the benefits that AICC offers. But it starts with investing and engaging. You invest as a member and engage with the things you offer to the people you meet. And when you join these groups and start interacting with everyone in AICC, good things happen.
BoxScore: Is it harder, when the economy is good, to get people to recognize how valuable AICC is? I can imagine some potential members are hearing from people like you and saying, “Well, thanks, but I don’t need your help. Business is on fire. I just don’t have the time to invest and engage.”
Palmeri: Actually, now’s really the time, when things are good, to get involved with AICC. When the economy turns, business conditions turn, and it becomes harder for people then. They say, “I just want to keep my head above water. I don’t want to spend the money or time to be involved with AICC.” Now, I’d make the case that it’s smart to be involved with AICC whatever the economy is doing, but now when things are good, it’s the easiest time to get involved and make things happen and find new opportunities to help your company grow—rather than when your company is struggling. Because the reality is, the economy will change at some point. It just does.
“No matter what your size, whether you’re a small plant or a mature company that’s been around forever, you aren’t too small or big for the benefits that AICC offers. But it starts with investing and engaging.”
BoxScore: What would you say is the biggest challenge facing the industry right now?
Palmeri: I think the biggest challenge—and this goes right now for any industry, in general—is the labor side. Finding people. I think, whether it’s us or in any industry, there are many positions that people are trying to fill in a very small and difficult labor pool.
BoxScore: How can AICC help businesses with that?
Palmeri: Well, there are things we can do on the education side, offering workshops on growing what you have, taking existing employees and putting them in different roles, and offering workshops on what new equipment is out there; that can help you produce better results with the same amount of people. We’ve offered workshops on what businesses are doing to connect with the younger generation because they’re definitely growing up in a different way than previous generations.
BoxScore: Absolutely, but in what way are you thinking?
Palmeri: Well, you have to keep them engaged and challenged for as long as you can, because they aren’t necessarily going to stay employed at the same place for 35 years. They’re on much more accelerated career paths these days. It used to be that you worked in the plant, did design, customer service, maybe you were promoted to a supervisor. You might have worked in the second shift or on the sales side and paid your dues that way. There was a natural progression that you followed, but now it’s much more compressed.
BoxScore: As you said, you have to keep people challenged, and in the old days, maybe some people were more content to stay stuck in a job they didn’t like.
Palmeri: I think it’s fine. It’s just different than what it was. Maybe it’s not what we were used to, but a lot of whether somebody is experienced enough, or right for the job, still depends on the individual.
Geoff Williams is a journalist and writer based in Loveland, Ohio. He can be reached at email@example.com.