Katrina Leaves Printers In Limbo

THE GULF COAST—It was, in the words of Ed Chalifoux, a tale of two cities in and around New Orleans. Neither story offered a happy conclusion.

Chalifoux, the Printing Industry Association of the South’s (PIAS) president, embarked on a 2,000-mile drive to visit members in the Mississippi cities of Jackson and Biloxi, and Louisiana cities including Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The Big Easy offered a Jekyll and Hyde perspective.

“…in the western section of New Orleans, I saw green grass, businesses open and people returning to their homes—a community trying to get back to normalcy,” Chalifoux wrote in a letter to PIAS members. “Normal is far from what is happening.”

Though that portion of New Orleans was largely spared by destruction, he wrote, the community bore emotional scars from the experience. Business transactions were at a minimum.

The eastern portion of the city was brown and riddled with mud, he noted, with slabs of concrete the only evidence that homes and businesses once thrived there.

Those printers that were able to return will find survival to be an arduous task.

“One printer said he didn’t bill anything for the month of September. Obviously, that isn’t a good thing,” Chalifoux told Printing Impressions, stressing how a majority of New Orleans printers rely on print job orders from fellow city businesses.

The PIAS has placed about 30 people with other printers across the country. Some have returned to their employers; others have chosen to just move on.

As for what more can be done to help their membership, Chalifoux will be doing a lot of watching and waiting to see how the situation sorts itself out.

“So far we’ve raised more than $30,000, the majority of it going toward keeping member insurance benefits going for another month,” he said. “Right now, it’s mostly wait and see. Some printers won’t have an idea of where they stand until January.”

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