Member Spotlight: Mike Farrell

Mike Farrell

Professional Member
Kalamazoo, MI

One of the first things that Mike Farrell did after graduating in 1988 with a degree in paper engineering technology from Sault College in Ontario, Canada, was to join TAPPI.


“TAPPI offered the type of technical and educational resources somebody who was just starting in the industry needs to succeed,” Mike explains. “I was never disappointed with that decision.” Indeed, Mike says he has, and still does, make good use of TAPPI Standards and TIPs. He is also actively involved in a number of committees, programs, and conferences from both organizational and attendance perspectives.

Today he serves as the Executive Council Chair for PIMA and will continue to do so through 2017. Before that he served as the 2015 PIMA Program Chair for PaperCon and Session Chair in 2014. His support of the industry also extends to allied organizations, including helping to author a guide on press section troubleshooting for the Recycled Paperboard Technical Association(RPTA). He also serves on the audit committee and as a board member for the Paper Technology Foundation Board of Trustees of Western Michigan University.

His passion for the industry is also evident in his career. Currently Vice President of the Recycled Mill Division for Graphic Packaging International, he is responsible for overseeing five recycled board mills with seven machines producing in excess of 3,000 TPD. He has been with Graphic Packaging for the past 10 years, first serving as Resident Manager in Middletown, OH, and then moving on to Production Manager in West Monroe, LA, before accepting his current position. Prior to that, he spent 13 years in the mill division for The Newark Group.

With its focus on sustainability, environmental impact and safety, Mike feels the industry is poised to do great things. The incoming generation of professionals, he notes, will help shape new ideas and approaches that will foster continuous improvement.

“However,” Mike advises, “I strongly encourage them to take advantage of the value TAPPI membership offers.  Attending courses and conferences, as well as actively engaging in divisions and committees will open doors, offer solutions, and provide a very positive impact on their careers.”

 He knows this, he says, from first-hand knowledge.


Q.  Why Did You Decide To Join TAPPI?

A.   I joined TAPPI right after graduation to become a part of the pulp and paper community. TAPPI offered courses to help me develop. TAPPI Standards and TIPs were valuable resources, especially to a person just starting in the industry.


Q.  How has TAPPI helped you in your career pursuits?

A.   Being actively involved in TAPPI over the years has presented many opportunities. From the TAPPI test methods and tips, which helped solve problems without having to reinvent the wheel, to networking with other professionals, I have learned a lot to help make an impact to my organization.


Farrell on the loose

Q. Tell us about some of your interests outside of TAPPI and your professional life.

A.   I am married to Flo (28 years), and we have two sons. My interests include working on my ’66 Mustang, running (see photo at right), cycling and football.


Q. Can you share a unique or fun fact about yourself?

A.   I did my first triathlon in 2012 – it was a lot of fun and a great way to stay in shape.


Q.  TAPPI celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2015. Would you provide a few thoughts on what you believe have been the most significant contributions/breakthroughs in areas of our industry? Also, what is your favorite paper or packaging product?

A.   I think the most significant invention/breakthrough was the kraft pulping process. Being able to regenerate the chemicals needed for pulping and producing energy from the lignin has made pulping sustainable and environmentally responsible. I also continue to be amazed at the creativity of our industry. When we are faced with problems, we find ways to improve our competitiveness (quality and productivity), significantly reduce our environmental impact, and most importantly improve the overall safety record of our industry.  

My favorite paper product is still the newspaper. I love to read the print version, especially on the weekend. Reading the newspaper allows me to see stories in the other columns that I would not ordinarily see online, giving me a broader view of the news.


Q.  Closing sentiments?

A.   I am always amazed at how tight knit this industry is. When I attend a TAPPI conference or serve on committees, I never fail to run across someone I have worked with before. I highly encourage young professionals to join TAPPI and attend conferences. The network of people you meet will serve as sounding boards for future problems. The conference programs and courses will help expand your knowledge and make you more confident in your role.