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Sam W. Milnark: A publisher and editor inspired by what the metal construction industry could become

2016 Metal Construction Hall of Fame

Sam Milnark

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 ourselves."

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 recalls.

"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 now."

"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 Sr.

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 industry.

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 each summer.

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.