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The Best Places in the United States for Printing Companies to be Located Are...

June 2014
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Professional printing is easily compared with professional baseball. Teams and ballparks, similar to printing plants, are built or acquired most anywhere with little economic rationality and no marketing plan. Sooner than later, the “field of dreams” turns into a nightmare due to “unanticipated negative downturns.” Executive incompetence and facilities mismanagement are never cited, just as the community investment bonds and tax credits are almost never paid back.

It seems we are all in the wrong places, and we can’t blame the Internet, smart tablets or Benjamin Franklin. The cause is our relatives three generations ago. So-called family photo-lithography businesses sprouted up in the “old neighborhoods” of the then booming 1940s Great Lakes and Northeast.

Click on the PDF to the left to view a chart of the 2014 underserved/overserved print markets by demand-to-supply in the United States.

So did the Cleveland Browns, Wilmington Blue Rocks and Lancaster Red Roses. The difference was that when the fans moved away, the teams also walked (or struck out.) Our stubborn families, who exalted the “craft” above commerce, stayed put, increasingly employing relatives and friends who by then couldn’t find real jobs for the same reasons of local economic decline and irrelevance.

The effect is that we grossly over-serve 249 of the nation’s 381 metropolitan areas, while ignoring the remaining extremely underserved 132. The financial consequences are worse than a rained out series. The average pitch to a customer is hurled 354 miles and, when it hopefully connects, flies or “grounds” 757 miles “out of the park” in an opposite direction! Sales costs pop up by 4 percent more than if in a perfect game, which is mounds more than the average PIA Ratios bottom-line score and, for that matter, tolerable dot-gain. There’s another 5 percent in long-haul freight for which we pay, directly or indirectly, with a full-count opportunity cost: Shipping dissuades buyers from future orders unless we care to take the hit in the next inning.

Home Plate-Changes
The U.S. geographical center for print supply (see the green pin in the map in the photo tab to the right) is Blue Island IL, an old industrial area on the south side of Cook County. “It” traveled here mathematically during the past 65 years from Bethel Park, PA, an old industrial area on the south side of Pittsburgh. Both places look and even smell alike as if our industry never migrated. But it did, and once-big printing towns from Bangor to Buffalo, Danbury to Sharon and Secaucus to Medina have shared the irreparable shut-downs.


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