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Koke focuses on horizon for growth.

Byline: Sherri Buri McDonald The Register-Guard

Koke Printing, a division of Industrial Publishing Inc. in Eugene, turns 100 this month. And a big part of the firm's longevity has been its willingness to change with the times.

This year is no different. The firm, like all general printers, faces competitive pressures from Internet publishers and low-cost printers in Asia - not to mention the other printers in town. So Koke is refocusing its sales strategy and plans to make the leap from serving mostly local customers to serving a five-state area in the West.

Koke Printing and its sister company, Industrial Publishing, which produces auction-related print materials, are part of an industry that is redefining itself.

"Either you're preparing yourselves for what this industry is becoming, or you're not," said Andrew Paparozzi, chief economist at the National Association of Printers and Lithographers, a trade group based in Paramus, N.J. "For those who are preparing, the opportunities are historic," he said. "For those who aren't preparing ...the threats are profound."

The industry's top performers recognize that they're in the communications business - that their goal is to help their clients communicate more effectively with their clients, Paparozzi said. "They'll often say they're a marketing or communications company that happens to print."

Count Koke among the preparers.

After analyzing customer and industry trends during the past several years, Koke identified three industries it wants to do more business with: manufacturers; community financial institutions, such as credit unions, and retirement centers or assisted living centers.

All three rely on high-quality, effective marketing materials to build their business, and they aren't solely price-driven, said Jason Pierce, CEO of Industrial Publishing Inc.

The company also will continue to grow its business producing auction materials for antique, collectible, estate and equipment sales. Industrial Publishing, which was founded by Jason's dad Dick Pierce, is the largest publisher of such materials in the United States, Jason Pierce said.

He projects company growth of 18 percent to 20 percent over the next 18 months. That would be considerably better than projected industry-wide growth of 2 percent to 2.5 percent this year, and of 1 percent to 2.5 percent next year, according to estimates from the National Association of Printers and Lithographers.

Last year, Koke and its sister company Industrial Publishing had annual revenues of $9 million. Koke lost two major customers, which sought out lower-priced services, so '07 revenues are projected to be $8.8 million, Pierce said.

Responding to that revenue hit, while positioning itself for future growth, Koke made the gut-wrenching decision early this month to lay off nine workers throughout the company, Pierce said. Now Koke and Industrial Publishing have 73 employees.

To support its projected growth, Koke recently hired two salespeople. One will be based in Eugene, and the other will be based in Bend to cover central Oregon, as well as Idaho, Pierce said.

Those two, plus four other salespeople based in Eugene, will cover Oregon, Washington, California and Nevada.

If sales grow as projected, the company would require more hiring in sales and production in January or February, he said.

Despite a longstanding trend of outsourcing by manufacturers, many manufacturers prefer to produce their marketing materials in the United States, Pierce said.

Koke customer BowTech, an archery equipment manufacturer based in Eugene, prefers to do business locally whenever possible, said marketing manager Margaret Knupp.

The manufacturer has worked with Koke for years, and appreciates the printer's high quality and responsiveness, she said.

"We often do press checks on critical jobs," Knupp said. "We get to see it as it's printing to make sure our colors are being hit; we want to make sure it's meeting our standards," she said.

The company has sent a few print jobs overseas, but wasn't satisfied with the results.

"What we've found when you go overseas is there are things that literally get lost in translation," Knupp said.

The quality at Koke and the ability to do press checks is also important to customer Country Coach, a luxury motor home manufacturer in Junction City.

"We can shop printers from here to Hong Kong - literally - and we choose to stay local because we can get definable quality locally," said Matt Howard, Country Coach's vice president of marketing.

The RV maker has worked with Koke for more than a decade, and it sends about 30 percent of its print work to Koke, he said. The company also uses other local printers, a printer in Portland and an out-of-state printer for its quarterly 80-page, full-color magazine, "Destinations."

The main reason we chose Koke is for "critical color," Howard said.

"If we're printing (a photo) of a motor coach, it's critical that the colors of the cabinetry or the exterior paint be precise," he said. "Koke has a history of doing quite well with critical color. We attribute that to their personnel, rather than any technological advances."

INDUSTRIAL PUBLISHING INC.

Parent company of Koke Printing and of Industrial Publishing, which prints auction-related materials.

Koke Printing founded: 1907

Merger of Koke Printing and Industrial Publishing: 1990

Employees: 73

Projected revenues in 2007:

$8.8 million

Latest development: Expanding Koke Printing's business beyond Oregon into Washington, California, Idaho and Nevada.
COPYRIGHT 2007 The Register Guard
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007, Gale Group. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Business; The longtime local printer turns to a five-state area in the West for increased sales
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 20, 2007
Words:867
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