History of Impressions

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First-time and returning visitors alike share with us how much they enjoy visiting our lobby. Once you get past the six and a half foot Charlie Brown statue you discover a discordant collection of baseball autographs and antique printing equipment. Although the printing equipment is authentic, it was purchased through collectors and was never actually used at Impressions Inc. Some of the equipment dates back to the 19th century, long before Impressions opened its doors in October 1967.

Impressions Inc. came about when the founder, Mark G. Jorgensen, bought an existing printing company named E.S. Ferry & Sons for $50,000. Although that may not seem like a lot of money (even by 1967 standards), it was a lot more than what Mark had at the time. He took $10,000 he had vested in previous employer’s profit sharing plan and combined it with a $20,000 loan from his mother and a $20,000 loan from the bank to make the purchase. What he received in return was a company with $56,000 annual sales and a variety of old printing, pre-press, and bindery equipment that was operated by three dedicated employees (shown above). The most notable feature of the building (which was rented and not part of the sale) was a helipad located on the roof. The previous owner was a helicopter pilot who sometimes actually used it for sales calls.

Mark Jorgensen’s interest in printing began when he took a job to run an in-house printing plant for a company called Wood Conversion, a subsidiary of Weyerhaeuser that produced a wood-based insulation called Balsam Wool. After completing his pre-law requirements at Gustavus Adolphus College, he took that position to pay for continuing his education for the evening law school classes he was taking at the William Mitchell School of Law.

The position at Wood Conversion was never intended to be permanent. Once he graduated from William Mitchell College of Law and passed the Bar he accepted an offer to work for West Publishing and moved to Michigan. It soon became obvious to him that his passion was business, printing in particular, and he became anxious to move back to Minnesota and resume his career goals within the printing industry. Married, and now with two kids he was able to find a job as General Manager for a successful Twin Cities printing company, a position he held for several years until he decided to start up his own company.

Although the details around the origin of the Impressions Incorporated name are kind of murky, the most likely source was an individual within a group of ad men who Mark met for lunch on a frequent basis. It sounds like the name and logo were scratched down on the back of a paper cocktail napkin – over cocktails, of course. As a side note, it is worth mentioning that that original logo was “modernized” and redesigned twice after the original. We landed with our current logo based on a customer assessment.

With a new name and logo, some new equipment and a new vision Mark Jorgensen grew the company to over a million dollars in sales within four years. The original printing presses were all of the letterpress variety. We soon added some more advanced offset printing presses, but those presses were limited to a single color per pass; any multi-color work required additional passes through the press. Two original presses, a 28” Miller letterpress and 15” Heidelberg windmill press, are still in excellent working order and used for production orders, although for die cutting only.

One acquisition that perhaps stands above any other was the purchase of our first large-format die cutter back in 1978 – A Bobst 102. It was Mark Jorgensen’s philosophy to not just sell existing capabilities; his goal was to satisfy the customer anyway possible and if that meant investing in new capabilities he was willing to do it. The Bobst die cutter was needed to fulfill a new contract of carded packaging for an existing customer. The experience and success they achieved from this production ultimately paved the way into the folding carton packaging market. That particular Bobst die cutter, like the Heidelberg windmill and Miller LP, is still in operation today, although just a small part of a large fleet of much more advanced Bobst die cutters. Good maintenance procedures can go a long ways toward keeping equipment running that isn’t subjected to technological obsolescence.

In the late ‘70’s and into the 1980’s, America was beset with a global competitive challenge causing great concern that our country had fallen behind in both cost competitiveness and product quality. In order to meet this challenge, Impressions sent a representative to attend a Total Quality Management seminar hosted by the legendary statistician and quality guru, Dr. W. Edwards Deming. Dr. Deming had finally achieved the status as the most highly sought after business consultant after being credited as the single most influential driver of the Japanese economic revitalization following the end of World War II. Impressions adopted many of the features of TQM; a philosophy that we have since found lends itself much better to packaging than to commercial printing.

Impressions soon outgrew their original location in Arden Hills, MN and bought their own building in St. Anthony Village, another Twin Cities suburb. Within a couple of years a second building on the same block was purchased, but they soon outgrew that and ultimately settled in the current facility in St. Paul, MN in 1990. In 1997, they added an additional facility in the town of Hutchinson, MN.

As we continued our direction into the packaging market, folding cartons in particular, we added several important capabilities such as Computer Aided Design (CAD) and folding gluing. We have continued to expand these capabilities by continually upgrading our CAD and Prep software, adding, several more folder gluers including the top-of-the-line Bobst Masterfold, and investing in numerous die cutting and specialty finishing equipment. (Our latest major investment, the HP Indigo 6600 digital press, is designed for folding cartons, labels, and flexible packaging products.)

Mark Jorgensen’s philosophy of proactively investing in customers’ needs continues to this day. We have a room filled with awards that were presented to us in recognition for helping our customers meet their internal goals. Those types of awards have always meant a lot more to us than general print industry awards. It is particularly true in packaging that the finished item has to meet a stated goal whether that is product protection, elimination of incoming inspection, faster filling or assembly times, or helping to achieve a company-wide objective like inventory reduction. Those are the accomplishments we care about and those are the acknowledgements we choose to display. Although we are growing and adding new customers, we have maintained relationships with some customers that date back to over 40 years.

In 1997 we achieved ISO 9001 certification, one of the first printing companies in this country to do so. We use our documented ISO procedures and work instructions as the basis of our quality management system as we expand into pharmaceutical and other health science markets.

In 1998, Mark sold Impressions Inc. to his three sons. They operate the business under the same values and principles that have made Impressions a success, and are looking forward to continued success well into the distant future. Much of this success can be attributed to a company culture of internal harmony and strong employee relations. More than 50 employees, or around 20% of the workforce, have been with the company for over 20 years. Employee experience, knowledge, and dedication are crucial in a manufacturing facility since it is the people on the line who are ultimately responsible for the quality of the final product. Every employee is empowered with the authority to stop the production of an order if there is a question or concern with either the quality or functionality of the product. Impressions Inc. encourages collaborative open communications between all of our departments to work as a team and take ownership in solving any problems that may arise.

As the demands of the customer continue to evolve and more is being asked of their vendors. Impressions Inc. is building off of our employee’s skills and investing in new technologies. For example, investments made years ago in pre-press and color management technology are now helping us reach high levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty through accurate and consistent proofs turned on a dime. Our skilled operators have built workflows within our rasterizing process that eliminate any possibility of human error, and then achieve the goal of perfect proof-to-press match. The ideal merger of talented people with the best equipment and technology.

An advantage that paperboard packaging has over other packaging types is the usage of a renewable material, paper, as a printing substrate. Impressions long ago made a decision to be proactive in our responsibility in helping the environment through the development of recycling programs and the elimination of hazardous waste. We are now one of the largest users of wind energy in the state of Minnesota.

Impressions Inc. continues to grow and succeed, even in these difficult times. The current CEO, Mark A. Jorgensen sums it up best: “We are, and will be survivors. Over the years our core products have slowly expanded. We were once a commercial printer and now we offer everything from graphic design to packaging, and promotional product sourcing. I have been in the industry for more than 30 years and not a day goes by that I don’t learn something new.”

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Author: Nicole Hannover

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