ROARING SPRING - A high-quality work force and a family commitment continue to make Roaring Spring Paper Products a key player in the Blair County business community.
"This company has always had a committed work force and management team, and that is why we survived," said Daniel Hoover, president and CEO of the company that is celebrating its 125th year in business.
The company, first known as Roaring Spring Blank Book, was founded in 1887 by Daniel M. Bare, Hoover's great-great-grandfather, and has remained in the family ever since.
(Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich)
Jackie Leach sorts and stacks a pallet of finished memo books recently at Roaring Spring Paper Products in Martinsburg. The paper products division is one of three that comprise Roaring Spring Blank Book.
Bare also founded the town's paper mill, now the Spring Mill of Appleton, in 1867.
"A representative of our family has always been very active in the business. Very few companies last five generations. We all had to work for a living and still do. There have always been active members wanting the company to succeed long term," Hoover said. "If you do not have an active owner, you lose the enthusiasm for the commitment to work that is required to have a successful business. You need to have committed leadership. That has always occurred in this business."
A sixth-generation family member, Lance Allen, is purchasing manager for the business, Hoover said.
Roaring Spring Paper Products is a multi-generational success story, said Joe Hurd, president and CEO of the Blair County Chamber of Commerce.
"The Hoover family and its predecessors, like many other family businesses started here, built a foundation of hard work, unwavering business ethics and a genuine appreciation for their employees and their community," Hurd said. "Uncompromising quality has also played a part."
The company began by making ledgers and journals - hence the name Blank Book. Most of the paper came from the nearby paper mill, Hoover said.
Significant growth came under the leadership of A.L. Garver - Hoover's great-grandfather - who took over as general manager in 1890.
"He was a medical doctor. He was a very talented guy. From 1890 to 1920, he really grew the company dramatically," Hoover said. "By the 1920s, we were one of the largest manufacturers of blank books in the world, certainly in the United States."
The company eventually transitioned out of blank books into modern ruled products, such as spiral notebooks, steno books and legal pads.
Roaring Spring Blank Book remains the corporate name but in 1990, the name of the paper division was changed to Roaring Spring Paper Products.
The company also has two other divisions - Spring Cove Container, which was started in 1964 to manufacture corrugated shipping containers, and Roaring Spring Water, which was started in 1981.
The three divisions employ about 380 people; the paper products division is the largest, employing about 250 people.
Around 1970, the company purchased the former Green Giant canning building, which later became the Cove Apple Packers building near Martinsburg. After using it for a while as a warehouse, in 1989 the company built a 150,000-square-foot addition to the 50,000-square-foot building and moved its paper converting plant to that facility.
"We needed more space and needed to be on one floor. You need to have one floor for manufacturing to have product flow and efficiency to survive in a competitive business," Hoover said.
Hoover said the company is one of the larger, independently owned ruled product manufacturers in the United States.
Today, the company churns out more than 20 million notebooks a year and produces a large quantity of private label notebooks for companies such as CVS Drug Stores and Staples.
The company's in-house imprinting operation enables it to provide fast service and consistent quality for the numerous direct order custom jobs received from colleges and universities.
Hoover said between 3,000 and 3,500 stores across the country carry the notebooks that the company prints.
Modern technology has provided its challenges and concerns.
"My big fear as technology explodes is that school students will stop writing on paper. That would be a crying shame. We would have a generation who can't write on paper; instead, they use digital devices," Hoover said. "That is happening so rapidly. It only takes one generation to stop writing on paper."
Hoover admits the paper division's sales have been down a bit but the company's other two divisions are doing well.
The company plans to soon add a biofuel energy division, manufacturing a coal substitute from low-grade wood fiber scrap that is normally taken to a landfilled.
"We want it to have a very positive impact on the environment," Hoover said.
Hoover said with technology the world is constantly changing.
"What is successful this year may not be successful next year. You have to create more opportunities for your company. We have to re-invent ourselves over and over again. If we had not done that, we may not have survived," Hoover said.
Hoover said he remains optimistic about the future of the paper division, which has adopted the slogan "Preserving your ideas for 125 years."
"We as a company have been fortunate that God has blessed us and we are still here. We are constantly looking at strategies to survive another generation. With the advent of technology, we are not sure where it [the business] will go. Our goal is to still be here," Hoover said.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.