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Posted: March 08, 2013

Perspective: Like yesterday

ColoradoBiz: A labor of love

Pat Wiesner

“I can’t remember ever saying, ‘Well, that was an easy year!’ about Colorado Business magazine.” – Eliza Cross, vice president, Wiesner Publishing, circa 1990s.

I only met Merrill Hastings a couple of times in my life. He was a real powerhouse in Colorado publishing, having started magazines like Skiing, Rocky Mountain West, Winter Sports, Cope and of course, Colorado Business in 1973.

We first met about 20 years ago at what must have been some kind of conference where we spent most of a day sitting together at the same table. All I remember is that I really liked Merrill Hastings.

From the 10th Mountain Division stories to the publishing successes he’d had, I wanted to hear all about it because he was big-time and we were just getting started. You know how it goes sometimes; we got along well, promised we would get together soon, and nothing ever came of it.

A year or so later I saw Merrill in the same kind of circumstance, in a room full of people, and by the time I got to where he had been, I was disappointed to find him gone.
Somewhere before 1983, Merrill sold Colorado Business to Bob Titsch, a substantial local publisher at the time. In 1983 things were tough in Colorado. We were in full recession as an economy. Titsch was selling out and moving south.

We were lucky because we were a young company that didn’t know what a recession was and we had just started a couple of magazines that were hitting home runs. We bought The Press, a screen-printing magazine, Active Wear and Colorado Business from Titsch.

The publishing business was one of those where you might buy three magazines just to get one. We killed Active Wear almost immediately. The Press made a lot of money for us for about 12 years and then was sold and subsequently went out of business when the entire T-shirt business moved to Central America.

Colorado Business has been a labor of love for a lot of competent people ever since. It was never our biggest magazine, far from it. Some years it was our littlest. More than half the time it has seemed like it has been in a lousy market, recession or downturn.

From the beginning, we had tough people who loved the magazine, loved to report and loved to dig out the “story,” whether it was about Denver being the center of the penny stock business and how you could get upside-down quick when your stock went from 2 cents to 1 cent; or about the problems and politics surrounding the new Denver airport. There may never be another like it built because of the growing number of stakeholders. We did it and we loved reporting it.

We had lots of bigger magazines, but we never have put out a better one. To this day, I think the writing in CB has been the best in Colorado. The following is a brief nod to the professionals who made it happen.

The magazine came to us with Ann Feeney as editor. She was a great writer and a wonderful person. Other top writers and editors along the way included Jeff Rundles who still writes the last page of the magazine today; Cynthia Evans had both editor and publisher jobs; Ann Kervin, an excellent writer and editor who has the pleasant habit of sending me a nice note every once in a while; David Lewis and most recently Bob Schwab, Mike Cote and Mike Taylor.

The first publisher was Donna Titsch; then B.J. Eckhardt who trained Dan Wiesner into an outstanding salesman and even a better publisher; Laura Fallbach was group publisher who redesigned and renamed the mag ColoradoBiz; it is run today by Bart Taylor; we always had top salespeople. I can’t say that without remembering Caroline Ahbe, Laurie Esserman and Aimee Svenneby.

ColoradoBiz has always been a tough sell in a difficult market with lots of great news and stories. It built a cadre of strong people who never expected it to be easy and always did a superior job.

If I had enough horsepower left, I would go into business tomorrow with any one of these people mentioned above and I bet we would hit some home runs!

Pat Wiesner is the retired CEO of WiesnerMedia, publisher of ColoradoBiz. He still leads sales training for the company. E-mail him at pwiesner@cobizmag.com.

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