New York Printers — One State, Two Worlds
REMEMBER VARICK Street? It used to be teaming with printers, until Trinity Church Real Estate—with extensive holdings on Varick—opted not to renew many printer leases about 10 years ago. Alas, the real estate boom eroded a fine tradition, as many shops were forced to relocate.
But New Yorkers are tough, no doubt about it, and have the survival skills to meet challenges. And thrive. According to the PIA/GATF, in its 2006 estimate for state print markets, New York ranked third in the nation for printing shipments at $12.3 billion, trailing only California ($15.3 billion) and Illinois ($12.9 billion).
It is easy to get lost in the mystique and aura of New York City. It is a state of printing unto itself, with its own set of advantages, challenges and outlooks. It bears little resemblance to the rest of the state, from a print perspective.
For some, operating in or around the city has its perks. Howie Weinstein, president of Candid Litho in Long Island City (which also has locations in Manhattan and New Jersey), says that New York City has been “amazing” in providing business and tax incentives: a REAP (Relocation and Employee Assistance) benefit of $3,000 per employee tax credit for 12 years. When the company moved its main facility out of the city to Long Island, the city government provided a $200,000 grant to help defray the costs.
“The city has been nothing but a tremendous help,” Weinstein remarks. “The state, on the other hand, promised us grant money but never came through.”
The move hasn’t hurt Candid Litho one iota. “We have clients on-press every single day,” Weinstein says. “Almost like retail, it’s all about location, location, location. That’s very important to our continued success.”
Big Back Yard Benefits
American Print Solutions of Long Island City is another company that benefits from the swell of major national corporations right in its back yard. Stuart Saperstein, vice president, notes that even in a tough economy, the diversity of customers provides a distinct advantage over many regions of the country.
“We’ve reinvented ourselves; we’re also a major marketing company,” Saperstein says. “We take a job from concept to completion with the help of our staff of on-site designers, so we’re in on the ground floor with customers. That has been the key—helping (clients) develop, market and print their ideas.”
The knock on printing for a long time has been the lack of skilled employees, but print buyers are often lacking in the most basic of knowledge. In the end, it’s the printer who is left to do a majority of the hand-holding and guiding on jobs.
“You’re getting people asking you for things when they have no idea what they’re asking for,” Saperstein reveals. “So you need to educate them.”
Time is certainly the enemy of the NYC printer. Saperstein, with 30 years under his belt, fondly recalls the days when customers would come to him with ample turnaround time requests. While quick turn time is an epidemic throughout the industry, it’s greatly magnified for companies like American Print Solutions.
“It’s a different ball game, and you’d better be on your toes and have the ability to produce work fast, or you’ll have problems,” he says. “That’s the challenge this market presents.”
Prestone Printing enjoys a large client base in the New York metropolitan area. The Brooklyn-based printer can tap a variety of sources for outside work and reaps the benefits of proximity to mass transit, clients and vendors, reports company President Rob Adler. The result is a low carbon footprint and lower fuel costs.
“We were fortunate to get assistance from the City of New York’s EDO Printer’s Fund and tax abatements from the Industrial Development Authority when we moved our facility because we stayed in the city,” Adler notes.
Doing business in the city offers plenty of challenges, led by astronomical real estate prices (Prestone now owns its building). Aside from high electricity and utility costs, perhaps one of the biggest obstacles is the reluctance of suburban workers from New Jersey and Connecticut to commute to work.
To understand New York state is to accept that it has two personalities—metropolitan and upstate—with fairly significant differences. Dan Mahany, president and CEO of Canfield and Tack, points out that his company’s Rochester home offers the built-in advantages of being the corporate headquarters of Kodak and Xerox, which are both suppliers and purchasers of print.
And when it comes to finding new talent, as proving grounds go, the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) owes no apologies. Mahany has benefitted from the use of RIT interns over the years, and he’s been fortunate enough to bring some employees on full-time.
On the flip side, upstate New York has a reputation for high real estate taxes and a less-than- favorable business climate, according to Mahany. “We really have to fight for our opportunities,” he says. “Fortunately, we still have a strong manufacturing base; banking and telecom are strong in the Rochester area.
“When the rest of the country had the big housing boom, that didn’t happen here. So I think our wage rates are pretty competitive, and our labor costs are competitive on the national level.”
Speaking of Rochester companies, Flower City Printing also reaps the benefits of the RIT feeder system, as well as with employees who passed through credible high school graphic arts programs. President Mark Ashworth sees the state as being a major asset when it comes to securing assistance in various forms.
“You have to justify what you’re doing, but there’s a lot of economic advantages for research, development, education, training and job growth,” he says.
Even with a solid customer base to tap, Ashworth has endured challenges. Some manufacturing clients—consumer products and some retail—are taking their business offshore and to other areas of the country that have more favorable labor rates. It has caused Flower City to seek new markets and expand its geographic scope.
“As little as five years ago, a substantial amount of our volume was in puzzles, games and collector coin boards,” Ashworth notes. “Those manufacturers have moved all of that work offshore. With it eventually went the printing aspect. We reinvented the markets that we are going after that require quick turns. In-store marketing materials, for one, don’t have time to wait.”
No time to wait? Call a New York printer. PI
Welcome To the Printing Jungle
Some of the largest companies in the world are headquartered in your back yard, and all you have to do is service them in a manner that will breed loyalty. Good luck with that, as you may find a little competition in your way!
Our panel of printers relate the intangibles that enable them to thrive, not only in Gotham City, but also in other hotly contested areas of the Empire State.
Dan Mahany, Canfield and Tack: We consistently deliver. With today’s technology, on a good day, almost anybody can turn out a decent print job. It still takes a real commitment, though, to do it over and over again. Anticipating and heading off problems, so they don’t become the client’s problem—that’s where we shine.
Steve Vid, Merlin Printing: We’re extremely responsive in respect to turnaround. People are constantly amazed at how fast we do things. A lot of that stems from doing 98 percent of the work in-house.
Howie Weinstein, Candid Litho: We have an advantage with our location; we do a tremendous amount of retail printing—Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s. On-site press OKs are a pretty common sight here. To go from Manhattan to Long Island City is about a five- minute subway ride.
Stuart Saperstein, American Print Solutions: We know what we have to do and how to get it done. I’ve been on press runs where I’ve been there 24 hours to make sure everything was right. My people are trained the same way. Customer service and response times are key.
Rob Adler, Prestone Printing: We are a large company, but family managed and owner operated. We’ve made a large investment in automation and updating the plant. We have a loyal, diversified customer base.