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California Printers — West Coast Melting Pot

April 2008 By Erik Cagle
Senior Editor
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ON THE heels of naming Wisconsin the “Printing Capital of the USA,” the publishers of this fine magazine decided it was high time to take a glimpse at another one of our nation’s great printing states. Given a choice from the remaining 49, there was no doubt that in order to visit America’s other great printing mecca, we would need to take the Ventura Highway...in the sunshine.

The Golden State, California, is a study in extravagance. It is the third-largest state in square miles behind Alaska and Texas, and has the biggest population with 36 million folks. From a printer’s perspective, it is not surprisingly the nation’s leader in printing plants (4,845) and employees (102,000), registering $15.3 billion in sales during 2006, according to statistics provided by the PIA/GATF.

And, as everyone is well aware, California has made a name for itself as the state that raises the most turkeys. If you want another piece of arcane trivia (courtesy of 50states.com), Pacific Grove has a law on the books that calls for a $500 fine for those found molesting butterflies. Certainly, these insects must be glad that they don’t have to go through the trouble of pressing charges.

We digress. Of the many advantages there are to doing business out here (and the accompanying articles mention a few), there is an equal number of hazards that come with the Cali territory.

Bob Lindgren, president of the Printing Industries Association of Southern California (PIASC), points to many issues that put the state’s printers at a disadvantage—taxation, the labor code, overtime rules, minimum wage and air quality are just some.

“The negatives aren’t getting any worse; they’ve been with us for some time,” Lindgren says. “But this is an enormously large market. Printers generally cluster around existing and potential clients. The economy and the nature of the California printer class is rather different than, say, the nature of the Midwest or Chicago classes, many of which tend to be web (printing) oriented, for the most part larger and attuned to nationally distributed products. We’re much more sheetfed, more localized, more short runs.”

On the Flip Side

Among the benefits for printers here, Lindgren notes, is the nature of industry in the Golden State. It boasts an enormous cache of print buyers. California is also not a “smoke stack” industry, as it once was with steel mills and auto plants. Present industry is more geared toward print consumption.
 

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