Chris Cooke says he didn’t need another printing plant.
But that’s exactly what happened last month when Cooke, owner of Huron Web Printing and Graphics in Wyoming received a call from Jim Heyens, owner of Southpoint Printing in Leamington.
Heyens had just received a dreaded phone call from his largest customer, Postmedia Network Inc., owner The Sarnia Observer, Chatham Daily News, Windsor Star and four well positioned weekly newspapers near and around Leamington.
The financially troubled Postmedia has been contracting since acquiring the assets of Quebecor Inc. four years ago.
Now, it is contracting again and this time its weekly newspaper division is in the crosshairs. Heyens says a regional manager called to say the four weeklies Southpoint was printing would be moving to the Windsor Star. Heyens who owns the Leamington Sun and Amherstburg Riverside Times quickly discovered he is a publisher not a printer.
“I just wanted my papers to be printed close by,” says Heyens who acquired the eight-unit press when Webco Publications in London closed four years go. “I never really had a plan to grow the business and that’s the problem of a publisher owning a printing plant,” he says.
Oddly enough, Cooke’s Huron Web which has hundreds of customers and prints $21 million worth of grocery and retail inserts along with weekly newspapers across Southwestern, Ontario and Eastern, Michigan was acquiring Webco’s heat set presses at the same time.
“We’re different,” says Cooke. “We are printers who happen to own a publication called First Monday but our bread and butter is commercial printing”. Huron Web is both a cold and heat set printer running eight press lines and nine folders 24 hours a day seven days a week. The company has 108 employees in graphics, printing and transportation.
Cooke says, “we learned years ago that as a commercial printer we should never rely on one of two customers. We’re good at grocery and retail inserts and that makes up 90 per cent of our business”. And that business is spread over five States and most of Ontario.
The acquisition of Southpoint adds capacity. “We can now repatriate some U.S. business that we haven’t been able to print in Wyoming,” says Cooke.
“We have a large Columbus, Ohio sporting goods chain that we print at a plant in Tennessee,” says Cooke. “Now we can print it closer to home in Canadian funds”.
“If you listen to the folks in social media they like to believe print is dead. In actual fact print drives social media,” says Cooke.
“Every time some kid sitting in his mother’s basement hacks into Facebook or Twitter accounts print soars,” says Cooke. “And then there is the privacy of social media. It is becoming a serious concern”.
With the Southpoint acquisition Huron Web gets four very experienced press operators, three of whom will work in both Leamington and Wyoming. “With the economy, the way it is it is becoming harder to get good staff,” says Cooke. “Here we had to purchase an entire printing plant to find people”.