Guild members learn about commercial printing at The News

The Buffalo News’ commercial printing operation continues to grow at a rapid rate as it adds a new commercial press and continues to print and expanding array of products for its clients.

That was the message Director of Production Bryan Carr delivered at a recent information session sponsored by the Buffalo News Labor Management Committee, a joint initiative of the Buffalo Newspaper Guild and The News.

Dubbed a “Lunch and Learn” session, the event was held in the first-floor auditorium on June 13 to give Guild members new insights into revenue-generating parts of The Buffalo News operation that may be unfamiliar to many.

The News’ move into commercial printing  — which involves other newspapers being printed atThe News’ facility, as well as other print products — began in approximately 2006/2007 with the rebranding of the service as TBN Direct.

At that time, the company had to outsource a lot of the printing work, making the profit margins smaller than if The News was doing the work itself, Carr said.

Since then, the company’s own print shop has grown from four employees to about 15 now, half of which are part-time. All the positions are union jobs.

The push has meant The News has purchased presses to conduct the work, including a new sheet-fed commercial press to be assembled on the second floor, which officials hope will be up and running in mid-August.

“Our goal is to turn up the volume,” said Carr, who has been withThe News about 18 years after working in Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

The commercial printing operation is currently a $2 million boost to the company’s bottom line, and News managers predict that figure will continue to grow as TBN Direct positions itself as a “solutions” center for people trying to market their products and services.

The News is uniquely positioned to offer full-service marketing through commercial print pieces, direct mail, newspaper and online advertising, Carr said.

Carr shared examples of a broad array of print projects now undertaken byTBN Direct – from Sabres game-day programs, direct mailers and political literature to business directories and visitors guides. Other clients include the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra,Tim Hortons and Medaille College.

The News also uses its web presses to print editions of the New York Times, Chautauqua Star, Batavia Daily News, and many other papers.

In 2010, the company made a $1.9 million profit from its commercial printing ventures, Carr said.This year, the company has made about $861,000 to date, with a goal of reaching $2.3 million by the end of the year, he said.

“We’ve targeted another 20 percent growth in revenue,” Carr said, noting that figure does not factor in the capabilities of the new press.

Prospects for the commercial printing side of the business are good, and the company is taking a “build it and they will come” outlook.

“I think business will continue to grow until we run out of space,” Carr said.

Guild members were actively engaged in the presentation and peppered Carr with many questions during the lunch break presentation. Pizza and drinks for attendees were provided by both the Guild and The News.

The Labor-Management Committee plans to continue to carry on this type of event as a series to help employees learn about different aspects of the company’s operations.