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GRAPHIC PRESS -- What's in a Name?

August 2001
For John Zamora, it means being able to launch a

new company with $40 million worth of new equipment.


John Zamora pretty much had it all, but even if he didn't, he surely had enough.

At the age of 54, Zamora boasts a happy marriage and three grown children, a stable full of his precious race horses, a reputation as one of the best salesmen in the commercial printing industry and several million dollars in the bank. By most definitions, that stands as a successful career and life—the reward being countless leisure hours at the race track, travel or any other indulgence he desired, for the rest of his days.

Incredibly, Zamora still had a dream that was unfulfilled. He wanted to own his own printing company, and was willing to do whatever it took to make that dream a reality, even if it meant risking most of his money, including liquidating his beloved ponies.

He sought to revive an industry name, Graphic Press, that hadn't been uttered in years, to enter an already crowded Los Angeles print market and to compete with other creme-de-la-creme industry heavy weights on a national level.

Just because he had the game in hand, John Zamora wasn't ready to take a knee. Zamora assembled a solid, experienced management team that included many industry veterans who had worked with him previously. He nabbed a 112,000-square-foot facility and secured $40 million worth of brand-new Heidelberg equipment. All of this despite an economy that was sliding south with every passing month, increasing energy costs and considerable neighborhood rivals in George Rice & Sons, Lithographix Inc. and Anderson Lithograph, among others.

For John Zamora,

seeing Graphic Press

live again was

a dream come true.

"I've been in the printing business my whole life and have been very successful. I've never not succeeded," Zamora states. "I had the decision to retire or go on. As they say of old printers, our blood is made of ink. I love this industry and love marketing, sales and manufacturing. But I always wanted to see if I could do this myself. It was a bold move."

Bold, yes, but far from impossible. It seems the name John Zamora had developed a pretty big reputation within the industry, allowing him to secure a considerable amount of equipment financing from Heidelberg. It really helped that he was investing a sizeable portion of the company start-up with his own personal funds.

"John now has the most modern printing plant in the United States, maybe even the world," notes a Heidelberg salesman who, due to competitive reasons, spoke on the condition that he not be identified.

"His reputation and financial strength allowed him to do this; the reason we could go that large with a customer is because of all the money he put down. Plus, he's a legend in the graphic arts business."

Largest Deal in America
The $40 million in new equipment is reportedly the largest single financial transaction ever consummated by Heidelberg in this country. It staggers the mind to consider that a single person was able to procure such an agreement.

Zamora's history dates back to the original Graphic Press, a high-quality sheetfed and web printer in the Los Angeles area. Upon leaving, Zamora joined George Rice & Sons, where he remained until April of 2000.

Although he had talked to Jesse and Jerry Williamson—owners of the Texas printing giant that bears their name—about going into business together, that never materialized. It seemed to be Zamora's destiny to make the plunge solo (his president, Jim Cooper, is a minority owner in the company.)

"Why did I do it? When I first left Rice, I really wasn't planning to start my own business," Zamora says. "I started to consider doing it and had a lot of offers from other people. Then Heidelberg came to me and said that if I was still interested, they would like to make it an all-Heidelberg shop."

Shortly after "retiring" from now-Quebecor World, Zamora set the wheels in motion for his own business. He acquired the assets of Wolfer Printing (which had been in business for 100 years) and hired 63 of its employees. The ambitious venture didn't get off to the greatest start, as the original Graphic Press building Zamora obtained didn't work out. The current digs, however, at 6100 Malt Avenue, have made Graphic Press the envy of the Los Angeles area printing scene.

"This place is the cleanest printing company you've ever seen," Zamora says. "It's like an all-Heidelberg Graph Expo show floor. We've had quite a few printers come see it—Hennegan, Sandy Alexander, McMahon, Williamson and other printers outside of California. Printers in the L.A. area are a little jealous of our facility and envious of all of our new equipment, because no one else has the equipment we have."

In the process of putting together this new empire, Zamora assembled a roster of experienced industry veterans, many of whom had worked with him in the past. This includes Jim Cooper, Graphic Press president; Dennis Kiggins, who came over to be vice president of manufacturing; George Mathews, Zamora's right-hand man for 20 years with a former employer, came aboard as director of operations.

Other key imports included Alan Shankin, plant manager with 25 years of experience; Dirk Eldredge, vice president of sales; David Kephart, sales manager; and Alan Grossberg, vice president of the Pacific Northwest, who previously owned a company in Seattle.

"I retired from George Rice & Sons in 1994 and had been consulting for the last six years," states Cooper. "When John called me, I was excited about building a new company and being able to do things our way. We worked to bring in people who wanted to be a part of this exciting venture."

Graphic Press, which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, bolted out of the chute with $40 million in revenues. Two variables, somewhat interrelated, augmented the early sales success:

—The company garnered status of a Minority Business Enterprise by the Women/Minority Business Enterprise Clearinghouse (WMBE). In essence, Graphic Press can participate in procurement programs for public utilities doing business in the state of California that are signatories to the WMBE Clearinghouse.

—Buoyed by the minority status with the WMBE Clearinghouse, Graphic Press was able to increase its market share in the Detroit automotive market. Ford is a relatively recent coup for the company, adding to an auto maker stable that also includes Chrysler, Lincoln Mercury and Jaguar.

"The minority status got me in the door with some companies and when they saw the facility, it sealed the deal for us," Zamora remarks. "We're something of a boutique-type printer, even though we're not small. We've developed a niche with the designer community. With the equipment we have, we are able to do just about anything that's high-tech."

Bragging Rights
Bringing all new equipment to the table definitely has been a major advantage for Graphic Press. Heidelberg has also reaped some rewards from this partnership of sorts; Graphic Press is the unofficial showroom for the world's largest press manufacturer. The roster of new equipment is as impressive as it is staggering:

* An all-digital workflow is enhanced by a Chromagraph DC 3000 scanning system (including a DC 3900 scanner), a Delta Server with 380GB of storage, three CreoScitex Trendsetter Spectrum 3244 platesetter/proofers, various Iris digital proofers and 12 Macintosh workstations.

* Two eight-color Sunday 2000 web presses, one with a pinless combination folder, a pinless double former folder, Faustel UV coater, aqueous coater pattern perforator, remoistenable gluer and prefolder.

* An eight-color Speedmaster CD 102 sheetfed press with UV interdeck drying, UV coater and extended delivery; an eight-color Speedmaster CD 102 with coater; an eight-color Speedmaster SM 102 sheetfed perfector; and the granddaddy of them all, an 11-color Speedmaster SM 102 perfector with coater. According to Zamora, the 11-color press is one-of-a-kind.

* The all-Heidelberg bindery features an eight-pocket ST-270-8 stitcher, three Stahl folders and two Polar 137 ED Auto-trim cutters.

"Heidelberg's already sold about four presses from our floor," Zamora says of visitors coming to see the large presses in action. "I am so proud of our facility. It's wonderful to bring people through and show them what we have done, so they can come up with ideas for their own shops. Our plant also gives Heidelberg the opportunity to have a showroom with everything that they don't have in one place, unless you go to DRUPA.

"I'm very impressed with what Heidelberg offers for the commercial market," Zamora adds. "Their new equipment is special—with the gapless web presses, the CDs that run 15,000 sheets per hour, and their perfectors, which run at 13,000 an hour. Our very first job on the perfector was 3 million sheets, and we averaged speeds of 11,000 an hour."

This partnership of sorts will be on display during PRINT 01. Graphic Press will adorn the cover of a Heidelberg magazine that will be printed at the show.

Cooper feels the equipment and the reputation of the company's veterans have brought business through the front door. "The reputation we have in the marketplace has attracted customers who want to do business with us. We really haven't sought them out; they've sought us out," he says.

"Several Detroit clients get their work done here. We were fortunate, at the beginning, to have several people from Ford come in and have a look. They were very interested in what we're doing. We did some test runs on some old jobs they had, and it landed us a contract. And we didn't have a relationship with them before."

Great Expectations
Graphic Press will need to foster a number of solid relationships in the future to meet some of its lofty financial targets. Zamora has projected sales of $45 million for this year, followed by annual goals of $67 million, $75 million, $85 million and $92 million. Many printers are finding it hard to make their projections for 2001, as the soft economy has led a number of publicly held printers to reissue earnings forecasts that are considerably reduced.

Zamora points out that his unique deal with Heidelberg will allow him to pursue the types of jobs that perhaps the company couldn't afford to take on, given the current economic climate. "I have not seen the economy this bad in a long time," he admits. "Fortunately, because of the equipment that we have, we're very, very competitive. Because of our financing program with Heidelberg, I'm able to take work for the first year and prove to people how good we are and what we can do for them.

"We've been keeping unbelievably busy sheetfed-wise," he adds. "We're having a little more trouble filling our webs, even though we're booked for the next month or so."

While the Zamora name is pretty well known in the industry, the immediate goal is to spread the Graphic Press name further, not only to the automotive and designer markets, but across the board.

To help ensure that the company has a sound footing, he is liquidating his prized horses. One of the horses, Classy Cara (named after his daughter) finished third in the Kentucky Oaks and won both the Fantasy Stakes in Arkansas and the Huntingham Stakes in Hollywood.

"I have a responsibility to our 200 employees and I want to make sure the company makes it in these rough times," he says. "This company means more to me than anything."

Zamora is willing to stake his reputation—and his personal wealth—on being successful, and that says a lot.


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