Traveling in the Heartland

Last week I was traveling in our nation’s heartland.  Jim Oldebeken and I put over 800 miles on his car while visiting members, as well as prospective members, of the Association in Missouri and Kansas.  This is the land of business forms printers; yearbook publishers; regional newspapers; religious publishers, and oh, yes, commercial printers. 

The pace of life is different.  The approach to business is more laid back.  It’s not uncommon for companies in this part of the world to have employees who have been working together for decades.  Sometimes a business’ focus is not about maximizing profits, but finding ways to keep everyone employed.  Your fellow employees are folks who grew up with you.  You see them at church.  Your children/grandchildren play together.  Business works different in our regional communities. 

But the economic wave of change brings both good news and bad news. The good being that the printing business is not quite down as much as in the major metro areas — and that might be a function of the specialty companies we find in this part of the world.

The bad news?  This part of the world is the home to many manufacturers and assembly companies with specialties in the aviation and auto industry.  When several hundred people are laid off in Kansas City or Dallas/Fort Worth, it is tough, but jobs are available.  That’s not the case in Springfield, Parsons, Ledonia, or Salina where hundreds of folks have lost their jobs over the past few months.  And that’s probably why our printers in this part of the world look at the printing biz from a slightly different perspective.

On another note, printing industry legend Pete Armstrong passed away this week.  Both Jim and I were fortunate enough to be within a few hours of Wichita when we heard about his passing.  We were able to make the trip to his funeral and pay our industry’s respect to the family and the Wichita community.  At 89, he was still at the business on a regular basis and still enjoyed playing poker in the bindery with his fellow employees.  Although funeral services are not high on my list of things to attend, hearing about Pete and his commitment to his family, community, and business really left a positive impact on me.  If most of us can live a life as half as interesting as Pete’s, we can surely say, “We did all right.”

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