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Printing presses roll in: Springdale firm adds equipment as annual revenues top $8 million.

NOW THAT SPRINGDALE-based Phillips Litho Co. has shown the printing industry how much business northwest Arkansas has to offer, Phil Phillips Jr.'s homegrown operation faces far more competition than it did back in 1973.

But Phillips, using his competitive nature as a former high school football coach, has weathered the storm by national printers and watched annual sales escalate to more than $8 million. With the recent addition of a $1 million sheet-fed press, the company is positioned for continued success.

The company was launched in 1973 by Phillips after he purchased printing assets from The Springdale News when it was sold to the Donrey Media Group.

"At that point in time there weren't any outside salesmen in this area," Phillips says. "It was all a kind of walk-in business and these big businesses that are successful now, like Tyson's and Wal-Mart, were successful but not at the magnitude they are now. They liked the fact that we were locally based with our staff and facilities right here and began doing business with us. We just kind of tagged along being a vendor to them, and as they grew, we grew."

And grow they have. When Phillips bought the printing operation, it was doing less than $100,000 a year in sales. Last year the company spent more than $3 million on paper alone.

The original staff of five employees has grown to more than 70 full-time and 20 part-time workers in nine departments, three of which work weekdays on three shifts.

Soon after buying the company, Phillips moved to a new 5,000-SF facility near the Springdale Municipal Airport. The printing plant has undergone eight expansions since then, bringing it to more than 67,000 SF.

$1 Million Press Added

The most recent expansion of 7,500 SF was primarily to house a new $1 million, seven-unit Heidelberg Speed Master Press, which will enable the company to print six colors simultaneously on 12,000 sheets of paper an hour.

The press, manufactured in Germany, is so rare that company officials could not show Phillips another one. Four colors can be printed on one side with two colors on the other in a single press run, then the sheet is coated with an aqueous substance that makes it more durable and gives it a high-gloss, high-quality finish.

Since founding the company, Phillips says, competition has become much more fierce as sales representatives from larger, national printing firms visit the area in an attempt to capitalize on the region's growth during the past decade. But Phillips, who coached at Huntsville from 1965-69 and at Siloam Springs from 1969-73, is not new to competition.

In order to compete better, the company has expanded its services. It now is a full-service printing firm providing typesetting; composition; complete pre-press preparation and image assembly; multicolor sheet-fed and web printing; roll label printing; and binding services, including folding, saddle stitching and perfect binding.

In addition, Phillips has expanded its client base considerably over the years and ventured out of northwest Arkansas.

Much of the company's web press work is in printing independent telephone directories for eight companies across the country. That gives Phillips about 60 different phone books with tens of thousands of copies and comprises about 40 percent of the company's revenues.

Flexo or label printing accounts for about 15 percent of the firm's business, and much of that is for a New Mexico fireworks manufacturer. Sheet-fed printing, such as that done on the new Heidelberg press, constitutes 45 percent of the company's revenues.

Sheet-fed press work consists primarily of high-quality, high-gloss sheet printing such as product sheets for Tyson Foods Inc. sales representatives.

"We still try to continue to build on the base of the local industries that got us started, but we've expanded and diversified at the same time," Phillips says. "You have to in order to survive."
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Author:Tobler, Christopher
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Nov 8, 1993
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