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Tri-State--Reinvent and Refocus

September 2000

"We looked at what the big printers were doing and realized there wasn't a place for the independent author. This is because large book printers are looking for volume and steady customers—a publisher that will provide them with multiple titles," Campagna explains. "We asked: 'Who's taking care of the author who will write two books in his lifetime? Who's showing him the steps and making it affordable for him?' We put together a guide book that walks them through the process, and nobody else does that. This way, they can see what their finished product is going to look like, and it actually walks them through the entire process."

Frank Campagna hails from a family of entrepreneurs, which isn't surprising (his immigrant grandfather manufactured spaghetti). Tri-State Copy Land was started by his mother, Loretta, in 1976 as she partnered with Xerox and introduced its first line of high-speed copiers to the Hudson Valley. It was a hot commodity in the late 1970s, and Loretta went after commercial accounts to give them fast turnaround on black-and-white booklets that took considerably longer to produce in commercial shops. Tri-State was turning out millions of copies each month, but the market would quickly change as the larger accounts began installing their own copiers in-house.

After Frank completed college and joined the fold, Tri-State began to target print brokers who didn't possess their level of capability and invested in high-speed Xerox duplicators, which were expensive to operate. He set up a distributorship and sought out distributors at various trade shows such as the Printing Northeast Expo. Those distributors resold Tri-State's copy work to their clients and Tri-State packaged and labeled the work under the distributor's name. It was the beginning of niche marketing as they targeted their brokered work throughout the Northeast.

"The brokers needed very fast turnaround time or needed to know more information about their project, how to sell their project, and they needed some tools," Campagna states. "In our brochures we help teach them how to sell high-speed copying. In doing so, it developed a strong, bonding relationship between us and our clients. It helped build that market for us."

It was around this time that Campagna spotted the need for a printing operation that could address the independent and self-publishing book market. Tri-State greeted this audience with open arms and instructed these fledgling authors on how to acquire ISBN numbers and bar codes, as well as how to market their books. Campagna educated himself through seminars and became a student and, eventually, teacher of the industry. It became yet another tier in Tri-State's host of products and services.

This ushered in a line of modern sheetfed offset printing equipment and capabilities: Sakurai presses equipped with automated plate changers, digitally controlled ink/water balance and perfecting capabilities. Automating the various book binding lines—perfect, comb and saddle stitching—shortly followed. An imagesetter was also installed to allow fully imposed film.

The automation allowed Tri-State workers to do the jobs of multiple people, thus maintaining costs and a competitive edge. Soon, Tri-State kept the entire package in-house by adding book covering capabilities.

Tri-State Services continues Campagna's quest to stay one step ahead in the printing business by addressing the Internet and the digital world with Website design, trade show management, marketing and promotion. Tri-State is involved in managing the Art Book Fair, including developing its Website, producing the promotional printing and marketing. The company also became a Skyline dealer, marketing and selling that company's pop-up display business for trade shows.

Tri-State is also putting the finishing touches on a new Website that will feature all of its products and services under the company umbrella. For example, Litho customers will now be able to upload book manuscripts/cover designs and track their jobs. A pricing calculator, Calculator Wizard, can produce quotes on book pricing as the client can learn adjusted costs as specs are changed. The Wizard is offered also to brokers who can use it on their own Websites.

"What we've done is identify a market that we're interested in, that can utilize our services and then built a customer base around that," Campagna says.

"Whether we're printing a book for a broker or printing one directly for a customer, it doesn't change what's happening on the production end. The knowledge really has to be on the customer service end, and that's what we've been addressing."

It is the investment in an Océ digital system that enables Tri-State to work its finished-book proofing magic. Working in a PDF, PostScript, PageMaker or QuarkXPress format, the files are delivered to the Océ system and the proof produced is also the finished product, complete with cover. It's the actual pages and a cover, without the hassle of negatives, bluelines and the pesky $20 to $100 author's alteration fees for the mistakes that invariably crop up.

"Now, if you want to make a change, it's no big deal," he says. "You're looking at a finished product, not a blueline. My response when I see it, even to this day, is 'wow.' " Imagine how his customers feel.

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