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Senior Editor, Printing Impressions Magazine

Printers’ Pulse

By Erik Cagle

About Erik

Erik Cagle is senior editor for Printing Impressions magazine. He has reported on the graphics arts industry for 11 years.

 

Cowan Happy to Be Part of Political Process

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It's been a roller coaster ride the past few years for Harvest Graphics. Back in 2008, the Lenexa, KS-based commercial printer had one of its best years, but it wouldn't be long before the pendulum went in the wrong direction. There was a recession…you might have heard about it in the news. It got really cold—hiring and capex spending froze. A chilly wind shook the trees and all of the mature fruit fell off. Natural selection, business style.

John Cowan didn't want to do it, but the company president and his partners, Pat Kieral and Price Williams, had little choice but to institute a 10 percent wage cut. No one was spared. But those 50 employees were comparatively lucky. Their jobs were still intact.

It wasn't all that long ago, really, and now the momentum seems to have swung back to the sunny side of the ledger sheet. The 10 percent was restored during 2011 and, by year's end, Cowan negotiated a solid deal to acquire a much-needed, brand new Heidelberg Polar cutter. While no one's ready to belt out "Happy Days Are Here Again," it will do for now.

It was against this backdrop that Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, rumbled through America's heartland last week, looking to unseat Mitt Romney in a bid to become the Republican presidential nominee. In a lead-up to Kansas' caucus last weekend, Santorum made a stop at Harvest Graphics, a visit that was brief and borderline spontaneous.

Consider this: On Monday, March 5, Cowan was contacted by the local Republican committee, which was vetting small businesses to serve as a host for Santorum. The following day, Cowan convened a briefing between the Secret Service, local fire and police departments. On Wednesday, the potential next leader of the free world stopped by and delivered a 35-minute speech in front of about 350 people.

"Every candidate is discussing the economy, small business and jobs," Cowan notes. "We've been affected by all of that, unfortunately."

Cowan is quick to point out that hosting Santorum should not be considered an endorsement by Harvest Graphics, but the idea of having a presidential candidate stump at Harvest Graphics seemed like a blast.

Santorum was initially supposed to drop in at 11:30, but the schedule backed up and it was about 2:30 before he showed. When he arrived, Santorum got a look at the political banner Harvest had printed for his campaign. Cowan took care as to not have any Harvest Graphics logos anywhere—after all it's not about the commercial printer, he notes—so that Santorum could use it on subsequent campaign stops.

Alas, Santorum never got around to acknowledging Cowan's firm. Judging by excerpts of the speech, Santorum was more intent on polarizing the differences between himself and major GOP candidates Romney and Newt Gingrich.

Not that Cowan was disappointed. After all, a campaign tour can leave one's head spinning. "I'm sure he pulled up in the back parking lot (at Harvest Graphics) and said, 'Now, what's the name of this place, again?' " Cowan laughed. "We were just honored to be part of the process."

Despite all the prep work, including hours of meetings, preparing for the hundreds of spectators and assuring the Secret Service that extremists were not hiding in the Polar cutter, Cowan ultimately did not get to meet Santorum. The three-hour delay cinched it: As Santorum began his speech, Cowan was boarding an airplane.

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