Over the past two decades and counting, CoatingsPro Magazine has featured new products, services, and ideas covering commercial and industrial coatings projects in the high-performance coatings industry. In print and digital formats, the magazine spotlights everything a coatings contractor might need to know about how to complete a job on a concrete, steel, or roof substrate. From day one, the primary objective has been to deliver this information to readers in a format that can help them do their jobs more efficiently, safely, and, ultimately, profitably.
“For 20 years, CoatingsPro has been the place coatings professionals worldwide have relied on for up-to-date industry information and resources on coatings products and services, tips and techniques, technology, safety issues, and government regulations,” said Eliina Lizarraga, director of media and publishing at the Association for Materials Protection and Performance (AMPP). “CoatingsPro enhances the professional development of its readers by providing practical information on the business of coatings and how needed skills can be obtained in all areas of the industry. The magazine continues to provide new and fresh content, offering readers the resources they have come to rely on.”
CoatingsPro’s Early History
Today, CoatingsPro is an official publication of AMPP, following NACE International’s 2008 acquisition of CoatingsPro. In 2021, NACE merged with SSPC: The Society for Protective Coatings to become AMPP. However, it all started out of a mid-sized office building in San Diego, Calif., under the independent brand of Four Point Publishing, LLC.
Lou Frank, the original publisher and founder of CoatingsPro, recalled those origins during a recent podcast on the CoatingsPro Interview Series (www.coatingspromag.com/podcasts). At the time, Frank was running his own advertising agency on the U.S. West Coast, and he gradually met a handful of coatings clients. “During my years working with coatings companies, I ended up at a large trade show in Las Vegas called World of Concrete,” said Frank, who works in 2021 as the business development principal at Coatings for Industry, the original advertiser of CoatingsPro.
“In early 2001, I’d been to several World of Concrete shows. By that time, I went looking for a magazine at that show to advertise in to reach out to the coatings applicator. I was looking for a publication that delivered content for all the challenges those people face. After a lot of hours of walking the show halls, I honestly could not find that magazine. I was walking the halls with a really nice person, and I said, ‘You know what? We should create this magazine.’ And she turned back to me and said, ‘Okay. When do we start?’ That was really the [start] of what happened to grow into CoatingsPro.”
When Frank returned to his then-San Diego home following the conference, he reached out to a small handful of people in specific roles, such as writing, photography, advertising, and design, to further explore the concept and build a potential team. Frank also spoke with other magazine publishers to make sure that his plan was staying on track. But he knew it was the potential readers who were most important of all.
“I burned up some of the airline miles that I had stashed away to visit industry people,” Frank said. “I was looking to discover what the industry wanted and what it needed in terms of content. I was reminded that, while in the publishing business, your revenue typically comes from the advertisers, but your real customer is the reader. I never lost sight of that.”
The first issue went in the mail in November 2001, which meant that the preparations for that issue were taking place two months earlier. In the United States, that time period was dominated by the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and even CoatingsPro felt the impact. “The editor and I really had to start with story No. 1 someplace,” Frank said. “We flew up to Idaho as part of a multi-city tour to go capture our first story with interviews and photography gear. Our first story was about the building that housed all the computers that monitor every nuclear reactor in North America. We thought, ‘Well, that’s pretty cool.’ A lot of people might not understand that all of the reactors are monitored in one place, so that if there’s a problem, all of the emergency stuff can happen quickly.”
“Interestingly, that was the morning of September 11, 2001. Perhaps not surprisingly, we were not able to get within 2 miles [3.2 km] of that. The security was crazy. Ultimately, we were able to get the story, but it was nothing like what we had planned. We ended up sitting for two days, hoping something would happen, and finally we were able to get pieces of the story… but we weren’t able to actually get to the building. But that’s sort of the formation of what happened. The editor and I went on to another two different stops later in the week after airplanes were allowed to fly again. We ended up getting quite an array of stories.”
From that first issue, and continuing to today, safety has been at the forefront of CoatingsPro. At the time, Frank noted that industry certifications — such as the Qualification Procedure (QP) program from SSPC and the Coating Inspector Program (CIP) from NACE — did not have widespread adoption.
“There were a lot of guys who were out doing coatings that hadn’t gotten certifications that are generally required today,” Frank said. “One of the big service things that I felt the magazine could do was to foster safety. Very early on, I developed a clear direction to everybody who worked with the magazine that unless we cited otherwise in the caption, we would not run a photograph that didn’t show proper safety equipment or PPE [personal protective equipment]. I felt very strongly that some of the folks without the certifications were putting not only their jobs at risk but themselves and their staff.”
While Frank acknowledges “a few scary moments” in the early going, he always believed the magazine was a good fit for the industry, and it quickly became profitable. “The magazine remains a good fit because of the skill, talent, and determination of the coatings contractor and how he or she will make or break a well-executed job,” Frank said. “The magazine does a great job of ensuring that message still gets across. Until machines can paint stadiums, bridges, and intricate petrochemical pipes and equipment, this will always be true.”
Frank also credits much of the CoatingsPro staff, many of whom still remain in place today. “Karen Kristofferson did an incredible job of managing production while I engaged with the editorial and sales teams at various trade shows,” he said of then associate publisher. “We had so much travel in those early days. Later, Eliina Lizarraga and Stephanie Chizik came to [Four Point Publishing] while I was involved, and they’ve done an amazing job to further its success.”
In Frank’s view, the role of the magazine is to amplify the importance of the applicator and his or her team of professionals on a given job. Meanwhile, readers are viewed as a community of like-minded people who often have similar ideas and challenges.
“All of us in the industry understand that we have an owner involved, we have a specifier or architect involved, and we have an inspector who is almost always involved,” Frank said. “But it’s that team of applicators that make or break what’s going on. One of the things that the magazine launched with, and I don’t think we’ve ever had an issue without it, is the section of the magazine called ‘Never Again.’ We had it even in one of those first issues. It’s a nonstop opportunity for readers to learn from others’ mistakes.”
This is an excerpt of the anniversary timeline article. Read the full article in the November 2021 issue of CoatingsPro.