It’s easy to forget all of our blessings when we hear of the tragedies unfolding around us on a daily basis. Whether it’s a local break-in and mugging, or the fanaticism in the Middle East, it’s too easy to cast the glass half full.  Let’s not go there.

Rather, let us look at the beauty and hope which are part of this time of the year. We live in a bountiful time providing all of us wealth in ways not just measured in money.  We have access to communications unheard of a generation ago.  Our ability to travel anywhere in the world – regardless of the threats from fanatics – is exceptional.  The access to medical care for all its foibles is still excellent.  Thus, this coming Thursday, let us join our family and/or friends and be thankful for the bounty of our nation and times.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Finding The Future

I recently saw information about career recruiting from PGSF (Print and Graphic Scholarship Foundation) and it got me thinking.  PGSF does a great job of finding ways to attract young people who are going to college (I was one of those kiddos MANY years ago), but what about finding ways to attract the “blue-collar” workers who are the backbone of the industry.

In the four state region which I’m familiar (Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, and Missouri), there are approximately 70 schools teaching graphics or print. The vast majority are high school programs (there are only four institutions offering a four-year degree).  The high school programs have limited resources and frequently are heavily focused on graphic design and job shop print production.  Thus, anyone looking for skilled technicians needs to understand that those schools don’t exist (and probably never did).  Yet, the students who are attending these programs are highly interested in print and graphics – and that’s a good thing.

The reality of finding new faces for the industry is that it’s going to take a grassroots effort and looking beyond the existing programs. PGSF has plenty of material, as do many of the regional PIA Affiliates, but that material has to be placed in the hands of schools and administrators.  Those “gatekeepers” have to be sold on the concept that there are career paths available in our industry, and that doesn’t get accomplished with a poster or brochure, especially when they know that print is dead and everyone must have a four-year degree to succeed.

So, how does one go about recruiting? How about finding a local connection with any local high school or community college?  Find ways to be involved with advisory committees.  Donate print projects and materials (everyone is always looking for paper). Provide plant tours to administrators and counsellors.  Volunteer (or have someone on your team) to provide career talks. Hire interns.  Hire part-time workers.  We have to remember that we are competing with colleges, other industries (all which are high-tech) and the desires of the student’s parents.  It takes a bit of commitment for the long haul, but how can you grow a future crop without a bit of work and nurturing?

Check This Out

When was the last time you used a check to make a payment?  Odds are if you’re under 40, it’s been awhile.  That trend is being reflected in the announcement made this week by Harland Clarke of the planned closing of their “base” plant in San Antonio.  A facility which to my knowledge has been in operation for over 40 years.

As we all know, it’s a sign of the times.  With the continued use of electronic tools and the internet, the day of the paper check is waning.  In Harland Clarke’s case, digital print engines are much more capable of doing the job that utilized legacy offset equipment.

Yet, for many there are still opportunities.  Visit Harland’s site and you see how the company has diversified and is no longer a “legacy” print company.  They were able to see a door opening when others saw doors closing.




I hate losing, and yesterday’s Texas Ranger game doesn’t sit well.  If you’ve played enough competitive sports (and isn’t business a competitive sport?), you’re going to lose.  Heck, a baseball team that wins a 100 games in a season, which is considered exceptional, is only winning 61% of the time.  So, not winning everything is part of life.  I get it.

But three errors in one inning, which then created an opportunity for Joey Bats to clear the bases, is pitiful.  Losing to a team (a competitor) who plays better than you — I’m good with it.  But shooting yourself (hmmm not a bad idea for a certain shortstop) in the foot, that just leaves a bad taste.

So, I’m going to go cry in my beer.  A nice Ballast Point Sculpin IPA.  That should make me feel better – at least until tonight’s game with the Dodgers and Mets.  Did I mention that I hate anything New York?

Good News. Bad News

As an astute reader of “Cup,” you’ve probably already determined that this article will discuss issues originating in Fantasyland on the Potomac – and you are correct.  Our legislators and regulators are hard at work creating more “stuff” which affects our industry.  So, let’s get the bad news out of the way – and it comes from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
For the past several years, various bodies have been litigating or threatening to litigate against the EPA because they feel that the threshold for low-level ozone is not low enough.  Many wanted to lower the threshold below 60 parts per billion because if lowering it to 70 was safe – 60 would be better.  Regardless that there were no hard facts to back up the supposition.  Now for the good news – the threshold is going to be 70.  Now the bad news – it’s 70.
What does it mean for our industry? The Dallas/Fort Worth area is already struggling to meet the previous threshold (75 ppb) and there are possibilities that San Antonio, Austin, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Kansas City will be affected, but it’s too early to tell.  Each state has to create models and then create regulations (based on theory) that will reduce the VOCs to the established level.  This can take up to two years.  More than likely, the result will be more monitoring, lower VOC solvents, and other measures which will have an indirect affect to many.  Oh, and vehicular traffic, which is not regulated by the Clean Air Act and one of the major generators of low-level ozone, will not be affected by these new requirements.
Now for some more good news – the Senate on October 1passed, by voice vote, the Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees Act (PACE) (HR 1624).  What does that mean in English?   Currently under the ACA, the definition of the state-based small group markets is scheduled to change in 2016 from 50 to include employers with up to 100 employees. The PACE Act would keep the one to 50 definition in place, but states would have the option of expanding the definition of small employer to cover employers with up to 100 employees.  Employer’s over 50 still have to offer health insurance, but can participate in the small group exchanges (Small Business Health Options – SHOP).  Well, if that was the good news, we need to address the “other” news.
Per information shared by Printing Industries of America’s Jim Kyger, “According to a recent report, if the small group definition moves to 100, premiums could increase by approximately 18 percent for a majority of the mid-sized employers. As a result, many employers may choose to self-insure instead of remain in the small group market because those employers will no longer be subject to the various requirements of the small group market. This could further increase the premiums for those left in the newly expanded risk pool.”
Although I never believed the Affordable Health Care Act would be affordable, I’m concerned that much of the law that was not transparent (thank you Ms. Pelosi) is rapidly changing the behavior of employers, medical professionals, individuals, and the insurance carriers.  The result?  Unaffordable health care, and many of the millions that the law was supposed to help still don’t have insurance coverage.
So, let’s close on some ________ (fill in the blank) news.  We elect a new President and Congress in approximately 13 months.

Golf Is A Four Letter Word

If you have played, excuse me, tried to play the game of golf, you have heard that phrase countless times.  As a baseball player in a previous life, the idea of hitting a small ball that was not moving with a stick, made perfect sense and sounded relatively easy.  Yup, and pigs will fly in formation.

Although my skills are lacking, I remain fascinated with the game and the passion which it creates.  It was very apparent at the PIA MidAmerica Kansas City Golf Tournament yesterday.  There were nearly 200 folks, including volunteers, in attendance.  Many of them drove over an hour to get there since Smithville, Missouri is a bit off the beaten path.  As I’ve realized over the years, the game is very social for many, and it was apparent yesterday with the smiles and excited voices heard prior, during and after the round.  More important, it was seeing our graphic arts community coming together to enjoy the day and get away from the daily grind which made the day very rewarding for me and the PIA staff.

I’m going to miss these events, but the game of golf will still be there.  Maybe with a bit of free time and a bit of focus, my game will improve.  Now, what did I do with my niblick?

Good Vibrations

OK, so I’m showing my age and referencing a Beach Boys song from the 60’s.  Pet Sounds was the album and it ranks up there with Sergeant Pepper from the Beatles, but I’m not really referencing music this morning, but GraphExpo in Chicago. Over the past two years, I have continued to see solid attendance, and more importantly an attitude that says we’re open for business and doing well.  That was truly missing in prior years.

On a bit of a downer, is the discussion of the show moving to Orlando, Florida in ’16.  How will that show perform is a gamble for Show Corp. which operates GraphExpo.  On a very positive note, that will reduce the cost of exhibiting – which is extremely expensive in Chicago and attract exhibitors which is the heart of the show.  On the other hand, Chicagoland and the surrounding states are home to thousands of printers.  Attendance is the life blood of the show and the question remains will print service providers travel who normally drove to Chicago, fly to Orlando.

As I see it GraphExpo – regardless of location or its “size” – is a barometer of the industry.  And things are looking positive and those are good vibrations.

What Now?

That’s a question I’m getting frequently since I announced my retirement.  That’s a great question.

Like so many who have been involved in a career which was enjoyable, challenging, and rewarding, thoughts of riding off into the sunset weren’t ever in view. All of a sudden, here I am at a precipice. And I’m beginning to realize that it’s a view that thousands of Baby Boomers are facing every day.

The monetary questions begin.  The health issues become more of concern.  And for many of us the question which is of utmost importance – what are you going to do with your spare time?

Yes, I’ve spoken to all my retired siblings and friends, and they say don’t worry, you’re going to enjoy the time and you’ll be busier than ever.  Yet, the question for me is — doing what?

I’m not a gardener; nor woodworker; golf is OK, but not a regular diet of it; no grandkids (no regrets – our kids are happy); and I’m still physically active (biking, martial arts, and yoga!), but the body doesn’t respond like a 40-year-old anymore.  Or for that matter a 50-year-old!

Yet, the fog is beginning to lift.  As one friend said, now’s the time to make time for the things you wanted to do when you were working – but couldn’t.  More time with Liz; travel a bit more – nothing exotic – but take time to enjoy rather than rushing back to work; spend more time with family members who are scattered throughout the West; and oh yeah, there’s still going to be some “work” involved. Like a druggie, I’m too hooked to leave cold turkey, but it’s going to be at my pace and choosing.

So what am I going to do? Same ‘ol stuff; just at a different pace.

ACA Chickens Coming Home

The underlying issue that many of us saw with Obamacare was that inexpensive (Affordable) insurance didn’t seem to be in the cards – regardless of what the President and his team of “experts” said.  Most of those folks never lived in the world of having to deal with the convoluted health care system of PPOs and HMOSs, paying for health care insurance, or making decisions on a company’s group health insurance plan so that you could provide a benefit without bankrupting the company.

As more and more pieces of ACA are becoming implemented and the reality of who is really using the subsidized programs (individuals who have REAL problems) the chickens are coming home to roost. Case in point is the recent 36% increase that was approved in Tennessee by its insurance commissioner.  The commissioner said that the increases were necessary to cover higher-than-expected claims from folks who had signed up for individual policies in the first two years of the Affordable Care Act.  In an article by the Wall Street Journal, it reflects that this is not an isolated trend but one being faced by many states.

It’s going to be an interesting election discussion in ’16, but of more critical interest, how do we fix this MAJOR challenge to our economy and social well-being.  And don’t tell me “let the market fix it,” or “single-payer is the only way to go.”

Two Wolves

I’d like to share a story that was sent to me by Jeff Bracken with Bracken & Associates.  With today’s pressures to succeed and live life “fully,” it’s worth considering.  The story is titled “Two Wolves” based on Cherokee Indian lore.

As the story goes, one evening an old Cherokee was sitting by a campfire with his grandson. As they quietly watched the flames and listened to the crackling of the burning wood, the grandfather broke the silence. He said: “My son, there is a battle that goes on inside all people. The battle is between two wolves that live inside us. One wolf is evil. He is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false
pride, superiority and ego.” He paused, and said: “The other wolf is good. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The boy quietly thought about this for a while, and asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?” The old man simply replied: “The one you feed.”