Jan 24, 2001

Scranton Gillette a Trade Publishing Stalwart

By Anna Marie Kukec

While many companies are being bought by huge corporations in recent years, award-winning Scranton Gillette Communications Inc. remains owned and operated by the same family for 96 years.
The company's fourth generation has brought it into the Internet Age and increased revenues for its 10 trade magazines covering the horticultural, water treatment and transportation industries with a total circulation of 1 million.
Magazines include Water & Wastes Digest on municipal and industrial facilities; Water Engineering & Management for managers and engineers of treatment facilities; and Roads and Bridges for highway contractors.
As a result, Folio magazine, which follows the trade publishing industry, honored Scranton Gillette with its 2000 Folio 40. The Des Plaines publisher ranked 31st out of the top 40 publishers nationwide, based on revenue growth between 1997 to 1999, which was $10.9 million, a 25 percent increase.
The company's turnaround actually started about 1995 when gross revenues were stagnant at $8.5 million and innovation was minimal. In 2000, however, gross revenue was $14.2 million, a 67 percent increase primarily from advertising, according to president Sheldon G. Schultz.
 "Those results are due to our people," said Schultz. He also added that staff has increased from 65 to 75 in the last five years.
To jump-start those revenues, the company revamped its management team by bringing in new leaders, not just managers. "Managers push," Schultz said. "Leaders pull; they have vision."
And vision is what Scranton Gillette needed.
In 1905, H.P. Gillette had a vision of the publishing industry and purchased Water Works magazine, which is today's Water Engineering & Management. H.P.'s son, E. Scranton Gillette became the publisher in 1936, and his name inspired the name of the company. As the company grew, each generation took the helm.
Today, the founder's grandson, H.S. Gillette, serves as chairman of the board. H.S.'s sons, the fourth generation, are Edward and Halbert Gillette. Edward is vice president and publisher of the Horticultural Magazine Group. Halbert is publisher of the Interactive Media Group, which became a separate business unit last year to oversee the Web site and e-commerce activities.
"They have always been very current on industry issues," said Michelle Gaston, director of association projects for the Ohio Florist Association in Columbus, which follows Scranton Gillette's Seed World and GPN: Greenhouse Product News magazines.
"They are very fair on evaluating on what's going on," Gaston said. "They're also well recognized and accepted in the floracultural industry."
In the road safety arena, Roads and Bridges provides information about how safer roads helps save lives, a theme also promoted by the American Traffic Safety Services Association in Fredericksburg, Va.
"Their whole organization is very receptive to the mission of safer roads," said ATSSA spokesman James Baron. "Our members manufacture and install those safety features, and it's important that motorists are aware of what they see through their windshields and in their rearview mirrors."
Besides revamping its management, Scranton Gillette put a strong focus on the Internet and the company's future in e-publishing and e-commerce.
"Some think that the Internet will replace print," Halbert said. "But it won't. It's a complimentary package."
While the Web offers immediacy and up-to-the minute news of each industry they cover, Scranton Gillette will continue its monthly magazines.
"The Internet can't replace the display of a story and its depth in print," said Edward.
Also while other trade publishers, including Des Plaines-based Cahners, have sold magazines from their group, Gillette intends to keep its 10 magazines alive. It also has bid on other trade magazine publishers on the East Coast and in the South, though they declined to provide details.
"Many large companies are focused on immediate financial returns," said Schultz. "Many see it as a society and as a company. But we see the small- and medium-sized publishers that will have the entrepreneurship to start new products."
New products, Schultz added, include special editions of print magazines published for contracted advertisers; specialized Web site archives that could become fee-based; and possible acquisitions of other companies this year.
"We're often too focused on print," Schultz added. "The possibilities of interactive are beyond everyone's immediate focus. There's more growth potential there."
Anna Marie Kukec is a business writer for The Daily Herald.