George F. Kress was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, in 1903. He was educated in the public school system, after which he enrolled in the University of Wisconsin, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in 1925. Following his graduation, he went to work for the accounting firm, H.C. Hopson, Inc. in New York.
In 1926, Mr. Kress returned to Green Bay to assist his father with his horse collar and wooden box business. Upon his return, Mr. Kress married his fiance, Marguerite, and they worked together to develop the box business. In 1933, Green Bay Box Company began to manufacture corrugated shipping containers, followed by folding cartons in 1942. In 1948, Green Bay Pulp & Paper Company was formed to produce corrugating medium for use at Green Bay Box.
Marguerite worked along side her husband for many years, and it was not unusual for her to bring their children to work with her. In the formative years, both of the Kresses became involved in all aspects of boxmaking and business management. As their efforts began to bear fruit, Mr. Kress had the foresight to reinvest the proceeds in the business and eventually branch out into related fields. Working with friends and family, Mr. Kress built an idea into a business that now transcends not only local and state boundaries but which has a significant international presence. Mrs. Kress was active in the business until 1935, but she continued to do some corporate work from her home.
Mr. Kress has many “firsts” to his credit. He was the first to recognize the potential of corrugating medium, which was made by using the semi-chemical method of wood preparation. Working with the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin, the Green Bay mill commercialized what had been considered an interesting experiment. The entire packaging industry now uses the same or related technology to make fluting paper.
The Green Bay mill was the first in the industry to develop the concept and practice of zero discharge technology as it applies to process wastewaters. Long before it became fashionable, Green Bay Packaging recognized its environmental stewardship responsibility. The origins of many of the ecologically responsible technologies being implemented into today’s state-of-the-art paper mills can be traced to Green Bay Packaging.
Green Bay Packaging was the first to develop 100 percent recycled packaging grades that actually outperformed their virgin counterparts. This eventually led to the establishment of the “mini-mill” concept, which resulted in the enhanced recovery and reuse of used corrugated containers. The company pioneered many industry advances in both technology and application, and the knowledge was shared without fear of damaging what might be considered a competitive advantage.
Although it wasn’t commonplace 20 years ago, the concept of totally effluent free (TEF) pulping was first implemented at Green Bay Packaging in the mid-1970s. Once again, the company concluded that the development was too important to keep secret. Although the original pulp mill has been discontinued, various embodiments of the concept are operating throughout the world.
During his career, Mr. Kress has held memberships in the Fibre Box Association; Folding Paper Box Association of America; and the American Forest & Paper Association (American Paper Institute).
His professional honors have included the William H. MacDonald Award from the United Way of Brown County in recognition for services to the organization, in which he introduced the concept of payroll deduction to the local area. In 1983, he was the first to receive the Green Bay Rotary Club Free Enterprise Award for outstanding contributions to the American free enterprise system; in 1984, he received the Wisconsin Governor’s Award in Support of the Arts; in 1986, he received both the Norman Vincent Peale Award and Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Wisconsin — Madison School of Business. The United Way of Brown County established an annual “George E. Kress Corporate Support Award” to acknowledge his commitment to and support of the community. St. Norbert College also bestowed upon him an honorary doctor of law degree.
Mr. Kress has served as president and chairman of the board for Green Bay Packaging Inc. and, after, as honorary chairman, until his death in 1997. He and Marguerite were married for 70 years. Sadly, Mrs. Kress did not live to see her husband inducted into The Paper Industry Hall of Fame. She died on Saturday, August 31, 1996. The Kresses’ son, James, is chairman of Green Bay Packaging and their other two children, Don and Marilyn, serve on the board.