Past President Interview: Marty Davis
Q & A PSI Retrospective: Marty Davis
Q: Are you still active in the paper recycling business?
A: Yes, I’m working full-time, at 66, as president of Midland Davis Corp. I’m over half the age of the company, which is 128 years old. But I still enjoy the business, even after 45 years in it, and I plan to make it to at least 50 years. Fortunately, I feel good. I’ve never taken good health for granted. I know it’s a gift. I appreciate it, and I work at it. Part of good health is exercising the body and the mind. For me, working is a big part of staying physically and mentally healthy. That said, I see people who are workaholics—and I’m not. I play golf on Thursday afternoons when the weather is nice, and my wife and I watch our granddaughters every Friday afternoon, so I usually leave work about 2:30 p.m. on those day. With my three adult children active in the business and a very good staff, I can relax and hit the ball knowing things at the office are in good hands.
Q: What keeps you interested in the business?
A: The ever-changing markets make sure the business is never mundane or repetitive. Despite the bad markets we experienced in 2019, we were able to keep our ongoing suppliers’ and customers’ paper moving at fair margins due to the long-term relationships on both sides. It was rewarding to be part of that. I also enjoy the people in the industry. I like that, for the most part, we’re doing business with people we want to work with. And I definitely enjoy working with our employees.
Q: Describe your typical workday activities.
A: I get up about 6 a.m. and go to the local YMCA to work out. At the office, we have meetings with the paper and freight brokerage group a couple of times a week. I deal with daily activities such as transactions, trucking, and customer calls. I walk through the scrapyard and paper recycling facility daily. Some days I’ll go to the Y for a lunchtime workout. After work I’ll frequently return to the Y and do a different workout or take a yoga class. Somehow I manage to find time to work in between all of my extracurricular activities!
Q: What are the most significant changes you’ve seen in the business over your career?
A: The biggest change has been in communications. In the old days, if you were out of the office, you were out of communication. Today, you’re never out of communication thanks to smartphones, tablets, and laptops. That has led to changes in the industry, especially in how people get their news and how they buy products. The amount of news that’s printed on paper has dropped dramatically, so there’s much less overissue news and ONP for recycling. And online shopping has added tons of corrugated to the curbside recycling stream and reduced the amount coming from large retail stores. Those are massive changes.
Q: What do you like and dislike about the business today?
A: I especially like that we’re operating a business and able to make money in a field that’s helping the environment. We’re keeping a huge amount of paper, plastic, and wood out of the landfill; we can feel really good about that.
As for what I dislike, I’m not a negative person, so there’s really nothing I dislike about it. Some factors are out of your control, like government regulations and market changes, so you just have to deal with them. I try to stay positive and not dwell on negatives.
Q: What are the defining memories from your term as PSI Chapter President?
A: I think I was the first nontraditional PSI President in that I wasn’t exclusively a paper broker or paper packer. I was primarily a scrap iron dealer who handled some recovered paper. When I gave my acceptance speech, I said, “I’m still going to give you a chance. If you don’t want a scrap iron dealer to be president of your paper chapter, just tell me.”
PSI has been incredibly important to my company. When our company entered the paper recycling business in 1986, our first step was to join NARI [an ISRI predecessor association] so we could be part of the paper chapter. Our membership helped us go from nothing to understanding the industry. We couldn’t have done it without PSI. So I felt strongly that if I could help PSI in any way, I would. I was very happy to serve as PSI President and proud I was a different type of president compared with the chapter’s previous leaders.
Q: What were the challenges and rewards of serving as PSI Chapter President?
A: When I became PSI President, our membership was down to about 79 members. Probably the smartest decision I made was naming George Chen [of G&T Trading International Corp.] as the chapter’s membership chair. By the end of my term, George had increased PSI’s membership to something like 130. I’m proud we had very solid membership growth during my PSI term and that we had more money in the bank when I left than when I started.
Q: What advice would you offer to the new generation entering the paper recycling market?
A: The same thing I tell my three children in the business. They are the fifth generation here at Midland, and the biggest advice I give is to have patience. Patience is a virtue, and good things come to those who wait. If business is bad and markets are down, be patient—they’ll come back. When recruiting companies to be ISRI and PSI members, be patient because people can sit on the fence for years. Other than that, you just have to remember the importance of communication, and maintain balance in your life. This is a good industry to be in.