Illinois Printers — A Printer’s ParadiseJune 2008 By Erik Cagle
When Govenor Rod Blagojevich embarked on his successful 2002 campaign bid, he visited our unnamed printer friend. The execs talked to Blagojevich about a number of topics, such as the budget. Blagojevich soon asked, “And you’re union, right?” He didn’t like the answer he received.
“When we said ‘no,’ he nearly hit the ceiling,” the printer remarks. “It was the last we ever heard from him. But that’s the meat and potatoes of Chicago and Illinois.”
Still, don’t get us wrong. We love the Windy City, arguably world-class and easily one of the top cities in the United States. Anyone who can’t have “a hot time in the old town tonight” clearly isn’t trying. But Illinois isn’t just Chicago. It’s Rockford and Naperville, Joliet and Aurora, Springfield (woo-hoo) and the Peorias. Hell, it’s even Woodstock.
As for the printing side of Illinois, who can argue with success? At $12.8 billion in printing shipments (according to PIA/GATF Chief Economist Ronnie Davis and friends) Illinois is second in the nation only to California, but the Land of Lincoln gets bonus points for most sales shipments per plant. Likewise, only the Golden State employs more workers than Illinois, which has more than 80,000 on its payrolls. And, of course, the nation’s biggest printer, RR Donnelley, is headquartered in Illinois.
While you may want to be careful not to get caught up in state politics, doing business as a printer in Illinois has its advantages. Just ask Frank Hudetz, whose Solar Communications has thrived for 47 years in the Chicago suburb of Naperville.
“[One advantage] has to be our access to a very large and talented base of experienced printing industry workers,” Hudetz says. “We rarely find ourselves with only a few applicants to pick from when we run an ad for any department within our company.
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“[Another edge] is the advantage gained by the large presence of numerous industry suppliers that frequently work with local printers on new innovations they are pursuing, as well as give prompt service for the needs these printers have,” Hudetz adds.
Ralph Johnson, president of Lake County Press in Waukegan, notes that the state has forged a solid reputation for work ethic due to the influx of European immigrants in the early 20th century. Those immigrants, seeking a piece of the American Dream, set up shop in Illinois and began a tradition of steadfast service that continues to this day.
Chicago, in particular, has done a good job of attracting major corporations to set up their headquarters here, according to Johnson, providing lucrative opportunities for the state’s printers.
“As a result of Chicago becoming one of the nation’s largest centers for printing and publishing, the industry became highly organized and began to develop a long list of trade associations and organizations over the years designed to promote education, camaraderie among members and a forum for peer exchanges,” he notes.
Andrea Plachy, marketing manager for Downers Grove-based Jet, also stresses the importance (and benefits) of doing business in the nation’s geographic epicenter. And not only are major corporations based here, so are support and ancillary services companies to the printing trade.
“In addition, the central geographic location, coupled with very competitive and robust logistics, makes is possible for Illinois-based printers to provide timely and cost-competitive product delivery across the entire nation,” she says.
One of the benefits for Illinois is its transformation from a largely manufacturing economy to a service economy, points out Ed Garvey, president and CEO of The Garvey Group in Niles.
“As a result, there is much more emphasis being placed on brand presence at the street level,” he notes. “While most of this branding is the result of marketing efforts from national and multi-national firms like the oil companies or major retailers, we have seen brand awareness increase for Illinois-based businesses as they look to clarify their value proposition to the customer.”
Clearly, being an Illinois printer is a value proposition in itself. PI
How Can You Not Love Chi-Town?
Not to disparage the rest of the state, but nothing comes close to Chicago. It’s hardly a reflection on the rest of Illinois; Chicago would be the cornerstone of virtually every other state.
It’s a great place for good eats, sporting events, night life and music (jazz, blues and rock). It towers like a mountain overlooking Lake Michigan, but the warmth and friendliness of its denizens are unmistakable.
Take a walk through Chicago, and you’ll be transported around the world in short order, says Ed Garvey of The Garvey Group.
“While it’s a huge city, Chicago is really a collection of small, distinct neighborhoods,” he adds. “You can get authentic ethnic food in each neighborhood. You can literally cross a street and go from one ethnic group to another.”
For a large U.S. city, the streets of Chicago are remarkably clean. That trait seems to have rubbed off on Chicagoans, who go out of their way to make out-of-towners feel at home.
“I also enjoy Chicago’s people,” Garvey remarks. “Most are very friendly, giving and helpful. It is a city that welcomes its guests. It’s also an affordable place to live. I’ve lived my entire life in this area, and I wouldn’t trade that.”