published on February 17, 2012 - 8:04 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

Charles “Chas” Looney

Senior Marketing Consultant

Catalyst Marketing Company

What your company does:
Catalyst Marketing Company is a strategic marketing and communications agency that represents clients in a wide variety of fields, including gaming, entertainment, automotive, banking, medical, business-to-business, real estate, and other industries. Catalyst is the largest agency in the Central Valley with 47 clients and a staff of 32.


Education:
Bachelor of Journalism degree from University of Missouri School of Journalism

Age:
93

Family:
Widower with 3 sons: Charles A. Looney III of San Antonio, Tex.; Blair Looney of Fresno and CEO and president of the Better Business Bureau of Central California; and Hutch Looney of Los Angeles.

What are some of your daily responsibilities with the company, Charles?
I attend meetings to keep current on accounts and their activities and offer suggestions on how to improve operations internally and with clients. I find that going to the office every day keeps me alive and my brain active. I like being in touch with what’s going on in the community. I’ve never been one to do the same activity daily with the same people and hear the same old stories.

What inspired you to start your own agency, Charles?
In the late 1950s, I was farming cotton, grain, and cantaloupe on the Westside when farming took a nose dive due to water and insect problems and dropping prices. Because of these conditions, I wasn’t able to increase my acreage and realized I wasn’t making any money. I decided to feed the family by going into advertising and offered to work for a local agency for free to get into the business. I eventually was hired as a paid employee, and then in 1960, I opened Charles A. Looney Advertising, and used my farming background to form an agency that specialized in agricultural accounts. My son Blair took over the agency in the 1980s and expanded the firm to hire more people and add a variety of other accounts. In 2008, we became part of Thielen Ideacorp, which is now Catalyst Marketing Company.

What are some of the biggest projects you’ve been a part of in the Fresno/Clovis area? And is there a particular project you consider a favorite, Charles?
One of the biggest projects and also my favorite has been working with Monterey Chemical Company for the past 40-plus years. Originally based in Monterey, they started as a small company that wanted to get the Central Valley to accept their agricultural products. They’re now a large company based in Fresno that does business all over the Western United States. A number of years ago, they changed their name to Monterey AgResources. They were recently sold to Brandt, a chemical firm based in the Midwest, and are now known as Brandt Monterey. They are still a client today.

You fought in World War II. Were there any lessons you learned from your military experience that helped you in your career, Charles?
I became a Selective Service Volunteer for the Army Air Corps in 1941, which meant that you could volunteer to serve for one year instead of potentially being drafted for three years. After Basic Training, I was transferred to the Fresno Army Air Base and later attended Air Intelligence School in Harrisburg, Penn. I was sent to China in 1943, where I served as an intelligence officer, ran the War Room, and was awarded a Bronze Star. I witnessed the advent of rocket warfare in 1943 when I was on a convoy on the Mediterranean en route to India. Our convoy was attacked by Germans who launched radio-controlled jet propelled glider bombs the size of fighter planes at us. The bomb launched at our ship missed and exploded over the bow, but another bomb hit and sunk the boat next to us, killing 1,100 men. I think what my time in the military taught me was to get along with all different types of personalities which is important when you’re working with a wide variety of clients.

As a business community, what does Fresno need to make as its biggest priorities, Charles?
It’s important to bring people together to make a strong, united community with good leadership while keeping personal agendas out of the picture. One way that we can do that is by encouraging all city, county and federal government workers to be located downtown along with anyone in the business community that closely works with government. I believe that would bring more people downtown to live and work.

What was your first job growing up and what did you learn from it, Charles?
I grew up in Muskogee, Okla., and my father was an editor of the newspaper there. He passed away from a stroke when I was 12, but I later went to work for that newspaper when I was in high school. The newspaper didn’t have an art department, so if you wanted a picture of anything for an advertisement, you had to pour hot metal onto a fireproof mat to make a print for an illustration. That was my job and I learned that hard, dirty work is honorable and pays. I made five dollars a week. Working in this atmosphere gave me a love for the profession of advertising.

What do you like to do for fun in your spare time, Charles?
I enjoy golfing, gardening, and reading newspapers and news magazines. I also like to travel and take one big trip a year. Last year, I went on the Erie Canal in New York via small boat from Chicago to Rhode Island. This year, I’m going on a River Cruise from St. Petersburg to Moscow.


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