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Bob Forsberg Aims to Make the 60th Annual PDC a True Milestone Event

Friday, December 14, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Rachel Moore
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NPTA performs quarterly interviews with thought leaders; articles such as the one below are included in Paper Merchant Insider, NPTA's members-only newsletter designed to keep members connected with industry events, each other and all things NPTA. Learn more about NPTA member benefits and join our community today.

Bob Forsberg Aims to Make the 60th Annual PDC a True Milestone Event
By Teddy Durgin


NPTA will hold its 60th Annual Paper Distribution Conference (PDC) January 22-24, 2019, at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, Florida. PDC was founded in 1959 with the purpose of uniting senior executives and thought leaders from the various paper merchants and manufacturers to address the issues of the day and explore opportunities for the future.

Serving as Chair of this year's conference is Robert "Bob" Forsberg, Vice President of Sales and Business Development with Sappi North America. And the 33-year industry veteran definitely has a vision for the 2019 event. "The responsibility on the Planning Committee is really around ensuring that the agenda and speakers are all pertinent to the challenges we as business leaders are faced with on a day-to-day basis," he said. "We all know we're operating in a challenged industry. We're out there ensuring that print maintains or at least holds a viable spot in the overall media mix. I think we've done a really nice job this year of ensuring that, particularly the outside speakers, are interesting and engaging. I think the attendees will really enjoy the itinerary."

Forsberg nearly beams when asked to tick off the three-day event's itinerary and list of speakers. "From an educational perspective, we'll have an update in terms of the economy and how that will impact our businesses," he said. "We'll also have [KGC Direct LLC President] Kenneth Gronbach, who is a demographer and headed the PDC a few years ago. He is unique in the sense that he looks at demographics and how they can predict a lot of the trends that we're actually seeing – some of which can be small, some of which can be mega. We'll also get an update from Mary Anne Hansan on the Paper and Packaging Board, and a Two Sides Update from Travis Mlakar."

Industry professionals who attend PDC do so to receive education on such topics as economic and sales trends; discuss challenges and potential solutions with regards to the distribution channel; and to strengthen business ties and relationships amongst their peers and trading partners.

When asked why the PDC is so relevant to today's NPTA members, Forsberg was quick to answer. "It's important for the graphics industry to remain relevant," he asserted. "The folks who attend the PDC have the ability to affect that. I don't think any of us are saying, 'It's print and print only!' We're all saying, 'It's print and alternative media.' Becoming a bigger part of everybody's affairs is the packaging side, too. Print and packaging are maintaining their relevance in today's economy. So people come to the PDC to be informed and to receive support and assurance. That's why it’s so relevant."

He continued, "The PDC is unique in the sense that you have individuals from member companies, from both the distribution side and manufacturing and some ancillary businesses. It's an invitation-only event, so the attendees are those who are really interested in current events, the graphics industry and those themes that are pertinent to our business."

Forsberg has been pertinent to our industry for over three decades now, having been hired by Sappi right out of college. He still fondly recalls the on-campus interview during his senior year that changed his life. He ended up starting that summer.

"For most of my career, I've been on the sales side," he commented. I started in [Sappi's] Sales Apprentice Program. My first assignment was in Atlanta. I then spent 11 years in New York doing commercial work, as well as corporate end user and publishing work. I then went back down to Atlanta to serve as regional sales manager. About three and a half years after that, we acquired [Potlach Corp.'s coated fine paper business]."

That moved him up to the corporate office in a marketing role before becoming a regional sales manager in Sappi's Mid-Atlantic region. About two years after that in 2005, he became Vice President of Sales and Business Development – a position he has held for the past 13 years.

Through those years, Forsberg has certainly challenged himself and his staff to reach goals and achieve milestones.

So what metrics will he use to determine the 60th annual PDC is a successful event? "Total attendance is always a good metric and benchmark," he said. "We want a group of folks who find the content so relevant that they leave looking for even more. One of the biggest challenges we have as a planning committee is 'How do we keep everybody there through the morning of the last day?' The content must be relevant and keep people riveted and engaged throughout the entire conference. We'll then follow up and seek everybody's advice. At that point, what will signal success to us will be that feedback from attendees."

He concluded, "And there will be great networking. It's not only the cocktail parties, but the dinner and the golf. It's fun to play in a warm weather climate in January. You get a nice four hours with the folks that you are with and to talk about the issues of the day. Socializing is definitely an important part of the PDC legacy!"

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