Direct Mail Printer IWCO Direct to Close Lithographic Printing Plant in Minnesota, Impacting 330 Workers
Last June, Chanhassen, Minnesota-based IWCO Direct announced a two-year, $50 million expansion plan, the largest in the 52-year history of the the direct marketing solutions provider. Part of those expenditures includes the installation of high-speed inkjet printing presses, largely in response to changing direct mail client needs for more highly personalized, data-driven campaigns, produced in shorter runs with rapid turn times.
This new omnichannel market reality has also required IWCO Direct CEO John Ashe and his executive team to make difficult decisions about how to optimize the company's existing production facilities and remove excess capacity. As part of this, the 330 workers employed at IWCO Direct's Little Falls, Minn., lithographic printing, letter shop, and commingling plant were told last week that the 200,000-sq.-ft., leased facility — located 100 miles north of Minneapolis in a town of 8,500 residents nestled along the banks of the Mississippi River — will close by Jan. 2, 2022.
According to an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, a notice filed with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) indicated the non-unionized plant will permanently close at the end of the year. Half of the employee will be let go by Nov. 1, 2021, with the remainder being terminated when the facility closes.
In an exclusive interview with Printing Impressions, Mike Parker, IWCO Direct chief marketing and solutions officer, pointed to the strong talent levels of the Little Falls facility workers, and their contributions to the company's past successes since 1999. But, with the addition of new digital printing, finishing, and inserting equipment to be housed in Chanhassen (Minn.), "we need to be more efficient and effective to consolidate our work loads," he said. "We had been moving a lot of materials back and forth between the Little Falls and Chanhassen plants."
With the upcoming Little Falls plant closure, IWCO Direct will still maintain its headquarters Chanhassen campus with three buildings, as well as two production facilities in Hamburg, Pa., and one in Warminster, Pa. Approximately 1,700 workers will still remain with the company.
The recently announced investment of approximately $50 million will accelerate IWCO Direct’s evolution as a strategic solutions partner. As the plan rolls out,, it will also greatly expand its data and analytics and marketing services offerings. "With this historic investment in IWCO Direct, we will quickly and significantly enhance the value we can bring to marketers in delivering response and business impact through our strategy, creative, data, and campaign execution,” stated Ashe, in a press release first announcing the expansion.
This investment will transform the company’s technology and digital marketing capabilities, as well as its production platform. It is directed toward digital presses and a new hybrid in-line technology environment, as well as facilities optimization and implementation costs. The company has also committed to further investment in its postal logistics operation — reportedly the largest commingling platform in the country.
IWCO Direct was ranked No. 13 on the 2020 Printing Impressions 350 (click here to download the complete Top 350 list) of the largest printing companies in the U.S. and Canada, as ranked by annual sales. It reported direct mail printing-related sales of $464 million for its most recent fiscal year on the 2020 list, making IWCO Direct the third largest direct marketing printer, ranked slightly behind RR Donnelley ($473 million in segment sales) and Quad ($470.76 million in segment sales).
Its parent is Steel Connect, a publicly traded holding company with two wholly owned subsidiaries: IWCO Direct and ModusLink Corp. ModusLink provides digital and physical supply chain solutions to brands across a range of industries, including consumer electronics, telecommunications, computing and storage, software and content, consumer packaged goods, medical devices, retail and luxury and connected devices.