Seattle Fish Co. CEO hooked on CSU

By Tony Phifer

Like most people old enough to remember the events of Sept. 11, 2001, James Iacino has vivid memories of what he felt that day, just a few short weeks after arriving at Colorado State University.

“I was a freshman, away from family, on 9/11, and I remember everyone just being so upset,” said Iacino, who grew up in Denver. “Nobody was going to class, but I decided I had to go my political science class with (emeritus political science professor) Dr. (Bob) Lawrence. To my surprise, the class was full – I guess everyone was feeling the way I was, and that Dr. Lawrence could provide some answers. We all felt a little better, and a little safer.

James Iacino

“I’ll never forget that, because it speaks to the quality of education I received. I found exactly what I needed that day, and that was the case throughout my time at CSU.”

Fast-forward 18 years, and Iacino is the CEO of Seattle Fish Co., the region’s premier seafood distributor. The company was started in 1918 by his grandfather, Mose Iacino, who devised a way to ship fresh fish from Seattle via railcar. Edward Iacino, Mose’s son and James’ father, then took over and expanded the company’s reach before eventually handing over the company’s reins in 2009 when James was just 26.

Since that time Iacino (BA political science ‘05, MBA business administration ‘12) has been transforming the century-old company into a modern business powerhouse. Innovations in shipping and expanded connections – Seattle Fish Co. now brings in product from around the globe – have allowed the company to process more than 15 million pounds of seafood annually. Seattle Fish Co. has more than 1,000 commercial customers, has expanded throughout Colorado and the Kansas City area, and now is serving 11 “landlocked” states.

Many of the practices Iacino has implemented were learned while pursuing his Executive MBA at CSU. He continued to work fulltime at the company while taking classes, and brought much of what he learned in the classroom to the boardroom.

“When you’re not growing as a company, you’re dying,” he said. “If we’re not constantly challenging ourselves and looking at ways to improve our business, we are in trouble.”

Seattle Fish Co. has been able to grow while remaining committed to providing a sustainable product. For Iacino, making sure seafood is available tomorrow is just as important as making it available today.

“In the short term, it’s all about being nimble and able to find the people to support our growth,” he said. “In the long term it’s about supply and assuring we have fish to sell 50 and even 100 years from now. We want to do our part to make sure we have fish for future generations.”

Iacino and his wife, Meghan (BS Human development and family studies ‘05) are growing their family as well and are expecting their second son this spring. In addition to running the family business and raising a young family, James and Meghan are community icons, volunteering and offering financial support for numerous organizations.

And Iacino keeps his alma mater close to his heart. He founded and serves as chairman of the Green & Gold Foundation, serves on the College of Business Global Leadership Council, is a football season ticket holder and has donated to numerous CSU causes.

‘I’ve always been proud of the university and their willingness to invest in students and promote collaboration and sustainability,” he said. “I love (CSU President) Tony Frank and have been inspired by his work. Honestly, it’s been pretty easy to want to get involved and find others who want to get involved. CSU is a very special place.”