Sam W. Milnark:
A publisher and editor inspired by what the metal construction industry could become
2016 Metal Construction Hall of Fame
Sam W. Milnark believed the metal
building industry was the next big thing. And the next big thing
needed a magazine and an association to promote it. In 1978,
Milnark, along with 2012 Hall of Fame inductee John S.
Lawrence Sr., founded Modern Trade Communications Inc., publisher of
Metal Construction News and Metal Architecture. Milnark and
Lawrence were also part of the group that founded the Metal
Construction Association in 1983, for which Milnark is being
honored as a Founder in the 2016 Metal Construction Hall of Fame.
Milnark passed away in 2003 at the age of 68.
An Interest in Writing
Milnark grew up in Cleveland and became interested in writing in
the late-1950s/early-1960s. "He was a graduate of the [Famous
Writer's School]," says Sam's brother Hank Milnark. "After Sam
finished, he started writing articles for it. And then he started
getting paid money to write."
Milnark's interest in writing led to a part-time job at the
Painesville, Ohio, Telegraph covering local news and taking
photographs. Before long, it turned into a full-time position, and
his boss recommended he take a position at Penton Publishing, a
publisher of trade magazines.
A Business Partnership
After starting out as junior editor of Heating and Air
Conditioning News, Milnark was editor when he met Lawrence, who was
a sales representative on the same magazine. "Sam and I got
together at Penton Publishing," Lawrence recalls. "We immediately
liked each other. I would say that was the beginning of our
partnership even though we worked for Penton."
After a business trip to Michigan in 1976, Milnark and Lawrence
visited a building site for a municipal police station and fire
department. The project, built with a metal building system, peeked
their interest and the two began discussing the opportunities they
saw in the marketplace. "We said this was a pretty neat thing, this
metal building system," Lawrence remembers. "We think it's got
promise and is going to be a force in the construction industry. So
we looked into it whether they had a magazine. We found one called
Metal Building Review, and decided to go into business for
In 1978, Milnark and Lawrence quit their jobs at Penton and
began Modern Trade. Milnark continued to work out of Ohio, while
Lawrence stayed in the Chicagoland area. In June 1980 the first
issue of Metal Building News was published. Milnark
handled the editorial side of the magazine as editor and publisher,
while Lawrence did the marketing and sales.
Through a combination of hard work and long hours, Lawrence says
the magazine and the company gradually did better and better. "We
talked on the telephone every morning," he says. "We would check in
with each other and talk about the events of the day or the events
coming up. We would then make our marketing plans as to where we
had to go or what we had to do."
Metal Building News changed its name to Metal
Construction News, and in 1985, Lawrence and Milnark added
Metal Architecture. As Lawrence says, "We saw a need for a
magazine that covered the architectural market too."
"I have to give Sam a lot of credit; he never missed a
deadline," Lawrence says. "He'd work all night to make a deadline
if he had to. We got the issues out no matter what. We both had the
same philosophy on publishing, in that we had to keep a deadline,
we had to put the magazine out on time, and we had to be careful
about having the right content."
"Sam was motivated and was probably the best partner that I
could have ever had, or chosen," Lawrence adds.
The Next Big Thing
Milnark was very passionate about the opportunities he believed
metal construction could bring to the future of construction. "Sam
would always tell me about the industry and how well the magazine
was moving forward to expand and bring in more talent and adding
new customers to advertise," Hank says.
One of the things that interested Milnark the most was the
possibility of using metal construction to build homes. "I remember
him talking to political people, to private enterprises. 'Let's get
on the bandwagon,' he'd say. "Let's start building metal homes.'
There wasn't a time that went by-having lunch, dinner, hanging out
with him, fishing-that he wasn't talking about it," Hank
"He just thought this was the next evolution, and he was right,"
Hank says. "I see more metal roofs and more metal homes being built
"I have to give Sam a
lot of credit; he never missed a deadline. We both had the same
philosophy on publishing, in that we had to keep a deadline, we had
to put the magazine out on time, and we had to be careful about
having the right content."
-- John S. Lawrence
Founding an Association
Both Milnark and Lawrence were instrumental to the founding of
the Metal Construction Association in 1983. Milnark lent his time
to the committees, while helping to raise the profile of the
association within the construction community. "We did a lot of
marketing work for the association," Lawrence recalls. "We'd go out
and talk to customers; talk to people to join the association. We'd
talk to them personally, right on the spot, telling them this would
be good for the industry. Our theory was that the association would
help grow the industry."
In 2004, Milnark received the Larry A. Swaney Award from the
MCA. The award, named after the fellow 2016 Founder inductee, is
presented to someone who has worked unselfishly for the success of
the association and the betterment of the metal construction
In addition to his passion for the metal construction industry,
Milnark had a passion for the outdoors and was an avid fisherman
and hunter. Hank says they went fishing on Lake Erie several times
Longtime friend and fellow Hall of Fame honoree, A.R. Ginn,
was a frequent partner in Milnark's outdoor adventures. He
describes Milnark as a really good guy and a good friend.