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Commercial printers continue post-Katrina comeback

Like other businesses, commercial printers on the Mississippi Gulf Coast suffered some bumps and bruises from Hurricane Katrina, but some are now on the rebound.

Shaugnessy Printing in Biloxi had enough water in the production area of its Caillavet Street facility to damage or destroy all equipment. Owner Denny Shaugnessy thought of cutting back and becoming a smaller operation, but has decided it’s full steam ahead for the business founded in 1950 by his father, Clark Shaugnessy. He’s repairing and replacing equipment all along and recently applied for a Small Business Administration loan to complete his recovery.

“I closed briefly, then started back immediately printing business cards and signs for emergency and construction workers,” he said. “The rest of the time during those first months was spent cleaning up.”

He was able to rent his front office space — at first to the federal Environmental Protection Agency and now to RW Developers — to bring in needed revenue. He’s proud of the French Quarter-style building that offers living space upstairs. “It’s like a loft apartment with high ceilings,” he said. “It’s colorful and attractive.”

Shaugnessy does all types of commercial printing and direct mail, an outgrowth of the business his dad started after moving to Biloxi to start a newspaper.

“I will not cut back. I’m still rebuilding and it’s coming along,” he affirms. “I intend to stay. I like being a part of the business community here.”

Solid additions

First American Printing & Direct Mail had almost no physical damage to its Ocean Springs facility, but had some at the Gulfport location. Still, it took approximately a year to fully recover and return the staffing to the pre-Katrina level.

“That time span allowed us to bring some new management and production people onboard that we might not would have gained,” said John McCollins, vice president of sales and marketing. “We were able to add some good people from other printers who were not able to come back.”

The company, an enterprise of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, has closed the Gulfport facility since the storm, but maintains a shop on the reservation in Neshoba County and one in Baton Rouge, La., in addition to the large operation in Ocean Springs. Digital printing is the fastest-growing segment at all three locations.

McCollins says the Coast’s gaming industry has always been a significant part of business for First American. It definitely felt the difference during the months following the storm when no casinos were operating.

“It’s getting better every day,” he said. “A lot of our business is related to our digital capability, and we do a lot of quick-turn stuff such as signs, posters and banners. Casinos use a lot of those things.”

Local and beyond

He adds that a lot of businesses on the Gulf Coast are coming back strong, and local business is still a critical part of its operation.

“One thing that helped us recover is that a significant part of our direct mail is from outside the region. That continues to grow. It comes from Seattle, Miami, Boston, all over,” he said. “It’s like we have two businesses.”

McCollins says the company’s diversified sales also helped the business come back quickly and that sales have resumed its growth. “It’s great for us to have the range of customers we have and to have three production sites,” he said. “We didn’t do it for hurricane protection, but it has been an important part of our recovery.”

He remains optimistic about the area’s long-term recovery and opportunities, and is pleased that First American was recently named a preferred vendor for Coco-Cola products.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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