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Rochester Top 100: Tech investments create an imprint on firm

Rochester Business Journal
July 11, 2014

“We’ve grown considerably over the last five or six years. So we’re strategically planning to continue a double-digit growth pattern for the foreseeable future,” President and CEO James Hammer said. (Photo by Kimberly McKinzie)

Embracing new technology and change has been the catalyst for the growth of the area’s largest commercial printer over the last few years.

“We entered the shrink-sleeve label business, which is a technology that’s been around probably 12 years in Asia but was relatively new in the U.S., in North America,” said James Hammer, president and CEO of Hammer Packaging Corp. “It meant that we invested in new presses and finishing equipment to enter the market.”

Shrink-sleeve labels shrink and conform to the contours of a package or bottle. Since 2008 Hammer Packaging’s business in this segment has grown to represent 45 percent of total sales volume, Hammer said.

Revenues increased from $87.6 million in 2011 to $103.7 million in 2012 and $106.8 million last year, he said. The company employs roughly 450 people, including 200 at its headquarters in Henrietta and 250 at its 300,000-square-foot facility at Rochester Technology Park.

“Jim has a philosophy that has worked for him since he took over the organization, and that is all about investing in technology,” said Louis Iovoli, vice president of strategic partnerships and marketing. “The approach Jim takes is, ‘I’ll invest in anything as long as it accomplishes one of two goals: You either are lowering the cost of production based on the investment that you’re making, or you’re expanding the range of products or services.’”

Hammer has seen his share of technological advances in the industry. He has been with the company—founded by his great-grandfather in 1912 as a seed package printer—for some four decades.

While he fully embraces change, Hammer said technology is the biggest industry challenge his company will face over the next few years.

“It’s a very competitive marketplace, like everything else in the world today,” he said.

Keeping the bottom line healthy means banks will be interested in lending money for new equipment, Hammer said, and that is especially crucial, given the speed at which printing machinery advances.

“Technology is changing so fast, it’s another evolution of that technology a year or two after that,” he said.

Hammer Packaging differentiates itself from competitors in various ways, Iovoli said. One is through its engineering group.

“Most of our growth comes from new packaging being introduced to the marketplace, not from stealing business from a competitor,” he said.

The company has positioned itself as a package decorator, Iovoli said.

“There’s a reason for doing that, in that packaging is a pretty dynamic arena and it’s evolving year in and year out,” he explained. “We have to be prepared to offer our clients a means of putting their message on that package. If you’re not prepared to evolve with them, you’ll be out of business.”

Another challenge the industry faces is hiring, Iovoli said. As equipment continues to become more technically complex, Hammer will need more skilled labor.

“The availability of trained people who grew up in the printing industry continues to shrink,” he said. “So bringing somebody on and having them decide they want to make a career in printing, it’s challenging.”

Still, Hammer Packaging continues to add staff. In 2011 the company had some 391 employees, increasing that number nearly 10 percent to 425 in 2012. Growth is on the horizon.

“Employment will grow for sure,” Hammer said. “It will definitely increase in the future, no question about that.”

And as for sales, Hammer said, it will be more of the same.

“We’ve grown considerably over the last five or six years,” he said. “So we’re strategically planning to continue a double-digit growth pattern for the foreseeable future.” / 585-546-8303

The Rochester Top 100 program is presented by the Rochester Business Alliance Inc. and KPMG LLP. Launched in 1987, it recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in Greater Rochester. This year’s Rochester Top 100 event will be held Nov. 5. For more information, go to

Hammer Packaging Corp.
Commercial packaging printer
Year founded: 1912
Top executive: James Hammer, president and CEO
Employees: 450
2013 ranking: 58
Location: Henrietta

7/11/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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