Gateway Press — GPO Work and Beyond
DO YOU want to know what kind of business is done at Louisville, KY-based Gateway Press? In almost any given month, turn to the “Business of Print” page in this magazine and look in the Government Printing Office (GPO) section. Gateway Press is more than likely to be listed among the one-time jobs.
In May, for example, Gateway landed a $2 million job to produce 6.8 million saddlestitched products—56 pages, two colors, four-color cover, aqueous coating, 81⁄2x11˝. Even sans a Printing Impressions listing of GPO Awards, it’s all a matter of public record, anyway.
But for Gateway Press, it’s just another day at the office for this $40 million annual performer, which has been working for ‘the man’ virtually its entire 56-year existence. Company President Nick Burrice, who’s been on board for all but the first dozen years of Gateway’s life, cannot recall a time without government printing jobs and, frankly, can’t imagine work life without it.
GPO, along with work for the state of Kentucky, accounts for roughly one-third of the business for this 240-employee operation. Some may look down their nose at printing for the U.S. government, believing it to be slop work, low-grade schedule filler. It is true that basic black-and-white jobs can be had from the GPO, and Gateway itself fills holes in the production schedule via the government jobs.
But while one might expect government work to be very regimented, by the book and bland, that simply isn’t true, Burrice notes.
“Many people look at government work as being fairly simple and cheap, but we do a lot of Level One and Two work,” he notes of the government’s rating scale of one to five, with one being the most demanding. “Level One work is just as tough as any demanding ad agency job. The GPO qualifies printers, imposing strict quality attributes that you have to meet.”
Not Just Filler Work
Darrell Embry, senior vice president for Gateway, notes that his company has ranked among the top GPO printers nationally for a number of years. Several factors have kept the commercial printer in good standing with GPO, perhaps none more than its approach toward the work. Gateway’s management does not distinguish between GPO and commercial customers.
“Many printers tend to treat GPO jobs as filler work,” he says. “GPO personnel have told me that many times they feel like second-class citizens when dealing with printers possessing this mentality. We try to go the extra mile to meet their needs in a timely manner. We make sure the GPO knows that we value and appreciate their business.”
Maintaining an impeccable delivery record has kept Gateway in a favorable light with GPO, and a willingness to bid on virtually all levels of work (the top four) paints the printer as extremely flexible. Keeping in mind that GPO also has its customers to appease—the many government agencies that look to GPO for assistance and support—following the staples of good business (high quality, accurate turnaround and competitive pricing) makes working with this institution relatively easy.
There are benefits to working for GPO. Specs are extremely, clearly detailed, where some commercial jobs are sometimes lacking in definition. And Embry points out that GPO generally fulfills invoices within 20 days. It goes without saying that the commercial sector is not always as consistent in that regard.
For the state of Kentucky, Gateway produces jobs such as highway maps, tax forms and park brochures, not to mention invitations to the governor’s Kentucky Derby breakfast. Outside of government work, Gateway’s product capabilities span the general commercial realm, including magazines, direct mail, folders, soft cover perfect-bound materials and saddlestitched work. Gateway also provides ancillary services, including mailing, fulfillment and inside/outside ink-jetting.
In an effort to bolster its commercial end, particularly with an eye towards catalog work, Gateway Press has placed an order for an eight-unit, 38˝ MAN Roland Rotoman web offset press. The package, which includes automated plate changers, closed-loop color control and other ancillary gear, comes with a price tag of about $11 million. With a top speed of 65,000 cph, the machine is scheduled to touch down by next June.
“The new press has several different options and the speed is tremendous,” Burrice points out. “That’s really going to give us a jump in long-run catalog and magazine work.”
Embry notes that Gateway used a four-person committee, evaluating over a six-month period, to seek out the most appropriate press for its needs. In picking the Rotoman, Embry notes the model complements Gateway’s current press configurations well.
“Over the past few years, our sweet spot has been the 32-page, four-color signature format,” he says. “To be able to produce this format at over 50,000 per hour should make us competitive in the markets that we serve. We’re occasionally asked to print up to eight-color work or to add gloss or dull coatings. Our competition is often limited to five or six colors. So this press will enable us to be flexible and competitive in the future.”
In the short term, Gateway Press is unlikely to deviate from its current path. Burrice hints that the company may take a long look at digital printing, though it will likely take a strong urging from its client base to push the company beyond the cursory glance stage. Considering the Rotoman press expenditure, Burrice doesn’t anticipate any significant outlays beyond a possible folder or two.
Maintaining the state and federal work base is essential. More than anything, it is building the commercial portfolio that tops the goal list for Gateway Press. That area may be the best avenue toward growth, according to Burrice.
Embry envisions the printer growing its sales to the $50 million range over the next three to five years, and believes the Rotoman will go a long way toward realizing that goal. “As long as we provide excellent service at a competitive price, and always put the customer first, we should continue on the road to success,” he says. “We are continually reminded that success is a journey, not a destination.
“We try to operate with a high degree of integrity and do what is right, no matter what the cost. If we’re able to continue down this path, we will consider ourselves successful.” PI