Hattiesburg — When Intermountain Color expanded from the Rocky Mountain region to the Deep South, IMC Web Graphics was born. When neither name was available as an Internet address, the company became known online as imcprint.com.
“After years of confusion about who we were and what exactly we did, the decision was made to find an all encompassing name and Web address,” explained Pat Nealy, customer service director for the printing company known since last July as Signature Offset. “People in the South thought that we were Web designers and in the Mountain States, they assumed that we sold paint!”
The Mississippi Business Journal asked Nealy about operations at the Hattiesburg plant post Hurricane Katrina.
vMississippi Business Journal: Do your two Mississippi plants in Hattiesburg and Olive Branch do the same kind of printing, or do they serve different types of customers?
Pat Nealy: Both of the facilities are equipped similarly with equipment and produce the same type of products. We are a commercial cold web printer specializing in magazines, tabloids and newspapers printed on newsprint-type paper stocks. Both facilities offer state-of-the-art computer to plate imaging, inserting, bindery, ink jet mailing and delivery services.
MBJ: What makes the services and technologies offered by the Hattiesburg plant unique?
PN: Our Hattiesburg plant is strategically located between Jackson, Mobile, New Orleans, Baton Rouge and even Birmingham. This gives us a logistic advantage to produce work in a timely manner throughout these corridors. Alabama and Louisiana customers also gain a tax advantage by printing in Hattiesburg. Our equipment is some of the newest anywhere in the region. The plant is less than two years old and all equipment installed at that time was brand new or re-built. We recently added another brand new Tensor 4-high to our printing capabilities along with two re-built Meg Tec splicers. We produce all of our work at 110-line screen and will soon make the switch to 133 line for all products. The industry norm is 85 line.
MBJ: Briefly describe cold web printing.
PN: Cold web printing does not use heat as a catalyst to dry the ink. The ink dries much slower and is typically a higher strength compared to heat set inks. This is due to the fact that inks are applied as much as 50% lighter in cold web printing due to the fact that they do not dry instantly.
MBJ: How many presses do you have in Hattiesburg?
PN: We have 20 press units that include two new Tensor four-high towers. The four-high towers are used to produce our high quality four-color. In addition, we have two folders (one new) and three splicers.
MBJ: How many publications do you print?
PN: Our Hattiesburg operation produces upwards of 175 different publications every month. We produce the Mississippi Business Journal, American Classifieds Mobile, The Daily Reveille for Louisiana State University, The Student Printz for the University of Southern Mississippi, Lafayette Independent and Mississippi Catholic, to name just a few.
MBJ: How large is your market area?
PN: Our market area for the plant is approximately a 300-mile radius of the plant, although we produce products on a national level that ship to nearly every point in the U.S. With the advent of PDF and FTP technology, our business is becoming more global now than at any other point in time.
We maintain three 24-foot delivery trucks and two delivery vans in Hattiesburg.
We will deliver with our own fleet up to 300 miles away and at that point, it becomes cost and time prohibitive to send our own so we enlist the services of freight companies.
MBJ: How did Hurricane Katrina impact business?
PN: Katrina had an enormous effect on our business. During the first several weeks following the storm, we had a large influx of customers from the Gulf Coast areas, especially New Orleans, looking for a place to print. The upturn in business was great, but we found ourselves struggling to handle the work once we realized that we could not staff the plant as needed. We could not bring folks from our other facilities as there was no place to house them. Every hotel and motel room all the way to Jackson and Meridian were full and there no housing or apartment units to rent. To make matters worse, due to the influx of work, it required more equipment in the plant and we could not get it installed until the first of the year. One of our largest competitors in New Orleans decided during that time to remain closed as they did not have enough workers to resume production.
MBJ: Have you hired additional staff or increased hours of production?
PN: We have since been able to add staff accordingly and our hours of operation have increased as well. We operate around the clock from Sunday evening through Friday and one week a month we operate 24/7.
MBJ: How many employees do you have?
PN: We employ 28 at the plant. Our people in Hattiesburg are always willing to go the extra mile. Their customer service skills are second to none. During the Katrina disaster, folks were delivering jobs in their own cars, downloading files on home computers, working all odd hours and putting people up in their own homes. This type of effort is what has made us so successful and makes us the industry leader in this region.
MBJ: When did you open the Hattiesburg plant?
PN: We opened the new facility in July 2004. This was an existing plant that we moved from Kosciusko.
MBJ: What challenges are publishers facing these days, and what is Signature Offset doing to help clients meet those challenges?
PN: Publishers are faced with lots of competitive pressure from a wide variety of products, including the Internet. Essentially, everyone is competing for many of the same dollars. Separating yourself from the competition is the publisher’s lifeblood. Color has become widely used in all publications and those that can produce color at an economical price and maintain quality are typically the most successful.
Signature Offset is committed to purchasing state-of-the-art equipment for all phases of the printing process. By doing so, we insure that we can produce consistent quality. We’re always benchmarking our pricing structure to be competitive in every market that we service.
Signature Offset offers tech help at zero cost to all of our publishers. If the problem cannot be solved on the phone or via e-mail, one of our techs will be on a plane to their location and will offer hands-on solutions. We’re never satisfied with just ‘OK’ and neither are our customers.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.