Job: Chairman and senior vice president of develpment for Wright Global Graphics Solutions
Industry leadership: Past chairman of the International Sleep Products Association and winner of the 2012 Robert MacMorran Memorial award for service to the mattress industry.
Education: Bachelor's degree in printing management technologies from Rochester Institute of Technology.
Career: He joined the family business, then known as Wright of Thomasville, after graduating from college in 1986 and added a branch to serve the floorcovering business in Dalton, Ga., in 1990. He became vice president of sales and marketing in 2000, chief marketing officer in 2005 and company chairman in 2010.
Personal: He and his wife, Beverly, have two daughters and reside in Chattanooga
Don Wright has had a love affair with printing since he ran a die cut press while still in high school.
Although the rug labeling business he heads shrank by nearly a third during the recent recession, Wright insists "it's still a fun business to work in every day."
"I guess I have ink in my veins and I used to have the scars on my hands [from lead spilling out of Linotype machines] to prove it," Wright said.
The 51-year-old Chattanoogan heads the family printing and labeling business his father started in North Carolina in 1961 to serve the rug, furniture and bedding industries. Over the past two years, Wright also has headed the principal trade group for the mattress industry -- the first supplier to do so in the 97-year history of the International Bed Products Association.
As an industry veteran and optimistic salesman, Wright proved to be "Mr. Right" for the ISPA after the trade group changed leaders and the $4 billion-a-year bedding industry battled its worst economic downturn in decades.
"In a tumultuous time, sometimes you have a heavy-handed leader and sometimes you have a healing leader," said Gerry Borreggine, the current chairman of the ISPA who also is chief executive for Therapedic International. "Don was a real healing leader and a very soothing leader through that period."
A music lover, Wright also is the lead singer of the Insomniaczzz, billed as a rock band for the mattress industry.
Wright believes his own business has survived over the past half century because of its ingenuity and integrity.
"We're super creative, and we live up to our word," he said.
When he moved to Dalton, Ga., to be closer to the carpet and rug industry in 1990, there were about 300 carpet mills. Today there are only about 30 separate carpet makers.
He moved to Chattanooga nearly a decade ago to be closer to Girls Preparatory School when his daughter enrolled at GPS. He said he has stayed in Chattanooga because of his love of the Scenic City even though the family business is based in Thomasville, N.C.
Adapting to technological and industry changes is key, Wright said. At the ISPA, the industry group is working to promote ways to recycle mattress materials, staying ahead of potential government regulations.
Through the most recent downturn in the carpet industry, Wright said his company avoided laying off workers to keep the talent Wright said will be needed as the business gradually returns.
The family owned business also has expanded globally, changing its name last year to Wright Global Graphic Solutions, and added to product mix with new labels for the growing gourmet wine industry, in addition to its core business of providing labels for rugs, mattresses and furniture.
"The labeling and how you package many of the industries we serve is critical in marketing to the consumer," Wright said.
Although the company has expanded into Asia, Wright remains passionate about U.S.-made goods. While Wright travels the globe selling his company's labels, he still oversees the three digital presses the company operates at its 25-employee warehouse and printing plant in Dalton.
"I'm a manufacturer. That's the core of my being," Wright said.
Dave Flessner is the business editor for the Times Free Press. A journalist for 35 years, Dave has been business editor and projects editor for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, city editor for The Chattanooga Times, business and county reporter for the Chattanooga Times, correspondent for the Lansing State Journal and Ingham County News in Michigan, staff writer for the Hastings Daily Tribune in Nebraska, and news director for WCBN-FM in Michigan. Dave, a native ...