Dave Koch shepherded Graco Inc. from a small shop in northeast Minneapolis to a globe-spanning industrial manufacturer during the 45 years he served as CEO and chairman of the board.
In 1962, Koch left a job in securities to take over family-owned Graco at age 32, after the founder, Koch’s father-in-law, had died. At the time, Graco was a niche manufacturer with $33 million in revenues. When Koch turned the company over to younger executives 20 years ago, Graco was producing $500 million in sales, supplying sprayers, pumps and other equipment to factories on several continents.
Koch, an athlete at Notre Dame and the University of St. Thomas, served in the Air Force during the Korean War. He worked for a few years at the predecessor firm to what is now RBC Financial in Minneapolis. Koch married Barbara Gray, a classmate at Wayzata High School whose father, Leil Gray, was one of two brothers who founded Graco. They invented a grease gun in the 1930s that worked in freezing weather. After Leil died, Koch was asked by the family to take over Graco.
Koch was a founder of the Center for Ethical Business Cultures and the Center for Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas. He also was a benefactor of the Minnesota Historical Society, the Mill City Museum, and donor to many schools and charities.
Koch is survived by his wife of 59 years, four children and eight grandchildren.more » « less