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Government Competition with the Private Sector Hurts Print Business

January 13, 2009
CHAMBERSBURG, PA—January 13, 2009—Ever wonder why a hotel, a restaurant or even a golf course is operated by a government agency? There are plenty of companies in the private sector that have greater expertise and could do a better job for customers by providing better service and for tax payers by operating them more cost effectively.

The same observation can be made in the print industry where companies large and small are seeking government print jobs every day. In some cases, work they could do and would welcome is never put up for public bid, because it is being done in-house by government printers.

Of course, the government needs a “print” capability. Any organization of any size needs to be able to make copies to be administratively efficient. Efficiency is lost when an agency goes beyond “convenience copying” and attempts to become overly self-reliant.

This may be happening with the federal government. Let me emphasize the words "may be", because I am basing my comments on year-end production statistics from the U.S. Government Print Office (GPO) coupled with trade press that I have read about how the GPO is modernizing and expanding its operations.

More than $400 million in print work comes through the GPO each year and is awarded to private sector vendors -- printers with proven credentials and pre-qualified capabilities. Thousands are registered to do GPO work, and hundreds nationwide actively seek GPO jobs and depend upon the revenue.

GPO was founded in 1813 to support the print needs of all three branches - executive, legislative and judicial - of the federal government. GPO is required by Title 44 of the U.S. Code to be the centralized resource for gathering, cataloging, producing, providing, authenticating and preserving published information. That’s just about everything printed for the federal government. Further, as required by Title 44, all federal agencies are required to use the GPO to procure any print from outside sources.

Unlike most federal agencies, GPO operates in some ways like a business, in that it receives from its federal agency customers a service fee which is based on a percentage of the work procured on their behalf, as well as cost reimbursement for certain types of services, such as typesetting. Additionally, the GPO sells printing directly to its customers, and this is done at the huge GPO printing facility in Washington for work that is not outsourced to the private sector, such as the Congressional Record, Federal Register, U.S. passports and a lot more.
 

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