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February 20, 2017 2017 Business Leaders: Large Business Leader of the Year

Howard turned Shirley manufacturer into global firm

PHOTO/COURTESY Steve Howard has run Bemis Associates as CEO for 25 years, the fourth generation of his family to do so.

Under Steve Howard's leadership, Bemis Associates has grown from a single facility in Shirley focused on mostly domestic business to an adhesive maker with a global presence that collaborates with brands like Nike and Under Armour.

Howard is the fourth generation from his family to run the company, which manufactures heat seal film adhesives, coatings and tapes to various industries.

He assumed president and CEO responsibilities in April 1992, shortly after the death of his father, Arthur Howard.

Going worldwide

As the company’s chief executive, he has added Bemis warehousing and distribution centers in Vietnam, Hong Kong and London and expanded its reach into new markets.

In addition to its manufacturing capabilities, Bemis works closely with designers and developers at contract manufacturers who make products for apparel companies like Adidas or lululemon.

Bemis provides guidance to those manufacturers so they can meet the needs of some of the largest performance, luxury and lifestyle brands in the world.

“He has a nose for opportunity, that is, spotting a customer whose needs are aligned with Bemis’ core capabilities,” said Bemis CFO Dave Riggert.

Exceeding expectations

Eileen Madigan, Bemis’ global director of organizational development, said her boss is caring and down to earth, and has fostered a company culture of innovation.

“He’s not afraid to make mistakes, and he’s not afraid to take risks,” Madigan said.

At the same time, he has high expectations for his employees.

“He’ll let you know when you haven’t met [his expectations], but he does so in a way that allows you to kind of learn from it, which kind of dovetails into the innovation,” said Madigan, who has been with Bemis since 1996.

Work hard, play hard

Both Madigan and Riggert said Howard has two major priorities as CEO: to grow the business and to grow its people.

Employees get a week of complimentary time off every year to do charitable work, said Riggert.

“This may be funny coming from the CFO, but the financial benefit of our investment and growth comes from focusing on innovation, services and people,” said Riggert.

Staffers find it enriching to work for a company that cares about them and is active in the community, he said.

“By building our capabilities and creating an innovative and capable workforce, that’s the means to the end,” Riggert said.

Maintaining corporate culture

Roy Nascimento, president and CEO of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, said Bemis is known for its strong corporate culture. The company has been a chamber member for 15 years and has sent its employees to a community leadership program and a human resources program at the chamber, he said.

“They treat their people very well and are very active in the community,” Nascimento said.

Meet the other 2017 Business Leaders of the Year

WBJ Hall of Fame

Corporate Citizen of the Year

Innovator of the Year

Business Leaders of the Year

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August 23, 2023

Steve been one of the best.
I feel grateful to have known him and work with him .
I have nothing but praise for this man thank you for everything you done.

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