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Illinois Printers — Competition’s Fierce

June 2008 By Erik Cagle
Senior Editor
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SO, YOU think you know Illinois like the back of your hand? Frankly, why would anyone have extensive knowledge about the backs of their hands? Are we really so bereft of meaningful activity that we would stare at our hands for prolonged periods, studying their contours?

OK, stay focused. First, some things you may not know about Illinois. It’s more than da Bears, da Bulls and da Cubs (sorry Ozzie, no one cares about da White Sox). Not only was it Abe Lincoln’s and Ulysses S. Grant’s mailing address, it’s also where Barack Obama sleeps when not on the campaign trail.

Among the notables born in Illinois: authors Ray Bradbury, Edgar Rice Burroughs. John Dos Passos, James T. Farrell, Ernest Hemingway, James Jones and Irving Wallace, along with poet Carl Sandburg. Former President (and forever Gipper) Ronald Reagan, tennis star Jimmy Connors, musician Miles Davis, animation icon Walt Disney, actors Harrison Ford, Charlton Heston and Rock Hudson, and comedians Bill Murray and Richard Pryor cut their teeth here, as well. (Kudos to for this info.)

The hog butcher capital of the United States, Chicago is the third largest city in the nation behind New York and Los Angeles. The Sears Tower was the tallest building in the world from 1973 until 1996; it remains the tallest in North America. The first McDonald’s sprouted up in Des Plaines. And, according to the state’s official Website, the name Illinois comes from a Native American word meaning “tribe of superior men.”

And don’t forget: The world’s biggest cookie and cracker factory is in Chicago. Nabisco cranks out billions of Oreo cookies each year.

But while you might not be able to walk five feet in Chicago without a cookie crunching under toe, this ain’t exactly the easiest state for printers trying to carve out a living there. It’s one of the biggest printing states, to be sure (more than 80,000 industry people cash a check because of it), but the economic conditions and competitive landscape don’t always foster success.

“There’s a definitive work ethic here that is pretty conducive to the printing industry,” notes Adam LeFebvre, president of Specialty Printing in Des Plaines. “But the [skilled] labor force is hard to find, especially in the press operator arena. It’s probably one of the biggest challenges in the industry today beyond the pricing issue. As people leave the industry and older workers retire, we’re competing with a lot of other industries over pay scale.”


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