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INKCORPORATED: Print industry spots state as place to be
By Catherine Zacchi

The printing industry has been undergoing a technological and marketing revolution in recent years. West Virginia is on the front lines.

West Virginia University Institute of Technology in Montgomery offers one of the few print management degree programs in the nation. Students enroll in the Community and Technical College at WVU Tech to earn an Associate of Science Degree in printing technology. Once they have the A.S. degree, students can pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in printing management through the WVU Tech College of Business. A common market agreement enables out-of-state B.S. candidates from Maryland to Texas to enroll at in-state tuition rates.

In September 2007, WVU Tech opened a $1.5 million National Publishing Innovation Center in downtown Montgomery. The Center will have a press simulation system that operates on the same principle as a flight simulator for pilots. Simulating a press run allows students to practice their skills, and even experienced printers to sharpen their problem-solving abilities.

“The center will be used for print industry education, training and research,” said Jack Nuckols, professor and print program chair. “It will include Scripps Howard Company Distance Delivery Auditorium, Gannett Foundation Simulation training/laboratory, Flint Ink training/research laboratory, Randall Family, LLC Web Offset Press training/laboratory, paper training/research laboratory, multimedia Executive Conference Suite, Grand Hall Reception area, and multiple state-of-the-art computer laboratories.”

Quad/Graphics, Inc. originated in Wisconsin. Today, Quad is the largest privately held printer in the world. The company has 12 manufacturing facilities in the United States and three international partner-ships. West Virginia is one of 11 states in which Quad does business, and is home to one of its mega-sized manufacturing plants. Customers served by the Quad Martinsburg plant include Victoria’s Secret, Lillian Vernon and National Geographic Magazine.

“Our Martinsburg location makes sense for Quad,” said Pam Rostagno, plant manager for the Martinsburg center. “We are situated just off the Interstate 81/70 corridors, which gives us great access to distribute up and down the northeast by the interstate system. We also have rail access that allows us to bring in almost all of our roll paper stock to print customers’ catalogs, magazines and inserts.”

Quad opened its plant in Martinsburg in 1997. The initial 439,000 square foot facility housed four rotogravure presses, cylinder preparation, paper warehousing and freight operations. In the past 10 years it has grown to 1.7 million square feet under roof, 1,000 employees, 11 rotogravure presses, three web offset presses and more than 25 finishing lines.

A rotogravure press is used for high volume, high quality printing, producing a sharp, fine image. Rotogravure presses use digitally engraved cylinders.
“One of the biggest changes in the past 20 years has been the elimination of film in the reproduction process. We are now truly in a digital age,” said Rostagno. “Whether it is digital data that drives the printed image or the data that drives the finishing and distribution, the world of managing print is about managing data.”

Managing data extends beyond putting ink on paper. For example, she said, suppose a company has eight million names in its customer database. Two million of those customers buy toys. In the past, the business might have to print and distribute toy inserts in all eight million catalogs in order to reach the two million with an interest in toys. Now, Quad can manage the database so the insert is mailed only to selected customers. That enables the company to appeal to its customers with personalized mailings, as well as reduce printing and distribution costs.

Controlling distribution costs is another area where a printer can shine, said Rostagno. This year, Quad’s customers braced for a 9 to 11 percent postal rate hike and were stunned with increases in excess of 20 percent. Quad was able to help soften the blow with its co-mailing program. Different catalogs from different customers are presorted together in a way that qualifies for postal discounts.

“They can save up to $25 for every 1,000 catalogs,” said Rostagno. “As customers have print runs in the millions, thesavings can be significant.”

Third-generation family owned McClain Printing Company in Parsons, W.Va., has reinvented itself by expanding its markets and investing millions in the latest technologies. Ken Smith, grandson of company founder Ken McClain, heads McClain Printing today.

McClain Printing got its start in 1958 when newspaper publisher McClain was approached by a group of local history scholars. The resulting “Chronicles of Border Warfare” lead to other requests for small run specialty books, and McClain Printing was born.

The industry has continued to change, and McClain Printing has nimbly changed with it. The company is preparing to purchase a new five-color printer with aqueous coat capability. One printer represents a $1.4 million investment, said Smith, but runs three times faster than the 1993 model it replaces.
The firm continues to print local histories, family genealogies and other small custom runs, but niche book printing represents only 10 percent of the company’s business. Today, McClain Printing is a printers’ printer.

“We are trade printers,” said Smith. “We market to other printers and brokers. When other printers get jobs that are too large, too difficult, or just at the wrong time when they’re already running at capacity,they subcontract to us.”

The strategy must be working. This year, McClain Printing experienced 21 percent growth, Smith said. “That kind of performance will be a nice way to lead into our 50th anniversary next year.”