Printing plant expansion makes room for new customers

April 2, 2015

By John Luciew

Reporter | PA Media Group, Mechanicsburg, PA

T

he towering white press plant looming over I-81 in Hampden Twp., where the Patriot-News is printed, is undergoing a major expansion.

Advance Central Services Pennsylvania, the company that owns the production facility, is investing in new equipment, adding as many as 20 jobs, and taking on more customers in addition to its current work printing The Patriot-News.

ACS PA announced the $3.6 million expansion in conjunction with the company’s new contract to print LNP—Lancaster’s daily newspaper—beginning in May 2014. The deal with Lancaster involves printing about 60,000 additional newspapers every weekday and 80,000 more on Sundays.

Kurt Hower, ACS PA operations director, said Lancaster is the company’s first seven-day-a-week print client. Currently, ACS PA prints six regional weekly publications, along with serving various retail print customers, including Kohl’s and Boscov’s. ACS PA prints The Patriot-News every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

Hower said a four-story Goss-Metroliner tower, a newsprint folder, more conveyers and enhanced press controls will be added to the building, which opened in 2001 as one of the first businesses in Cumberland Technology Park off Wertzville Road. 

To better enable printing outside contracts, ACS PA struck an agreement with Pennsylvania Media Group, which publishes The Patriot-News, to narrow the width of the newspaper. About an inch was trimmed in February this year in a resizing that aligns with industry standards.

D. Lee Carlson, PA Media Group president, assured readers the new width will not affect the amount of content in the paper. PA Media Group provides the news, sports and entertainment coverage, sales and marketing to both PennLive and The Patriot-News.

The newsroom is taking advantage of the format change to add several new features. An 8-page puzzle section, expanded weather page and improved TV Week are among the items that debuted in the Sunday Patriot-News. Also revamped were easier-to-read classified and obituary sections.

Perhaps the most noticeable change takes place in sports, which is reverting to a broadsheet section from its current tabloid form. The change will provide more display space for stories and especially photos.

“We have such great sports photography. That was the No. 1 thing propelling the move back to a broadsheet,” said Cate Barron, vice president of content for PA Media Group. Barron said the change was also made in response to positive reader reaction to the broadsheet Penn State section published during football season. 

Thursday’s GO! entertainment section is also converting from a tab to a broadsheet.

Patriot-News subscribers surveyed in several focus groups were satisfied with the easier-to-handle size. “We thought they would push back,” said Carlson. “They didn’t. They really liked it.”

Carlson welcomes the press plant expansion. “This fits with our current strategy of being digitally focused, but at the same time, serving those readers who like their print product, all while growing our commercial printing business regionally,” she said. “It makes us more of a well-rounded organization.

Two years into PA Media Group’s conversion to a digitally forward operation, PennLive is getting stronger, too. Its audience grew by 20 percent in 2014, and the website now averages more than 1 million page views a day, making it one of the largest news and information sites in Pennsylvania.

The newsroom recently added a reporting position to its Capitol Bureau and three additional positions to cover news beyond the paper’s traditional circulation area. Barron said PennLive and The Patriot-News are continuing their commitment to watchdog journalism, in-depth enterprise and investigative reporting statewide and in local communities. She noted this weekend’s Sunday Patriot-News will include the launch of a two-part series on the charter school movement in Pennsylvania and several opinion pieces on Gov. Tom Wolf’s firing of the state’s Open Records Office chief.

Barron credited the improved business climate, which includes the robust growth in PennLive’s audience and advertising, as enabling the newsroom to add reporters at a time when many media companies are cutting staff.

“These past two years have been challenging for everyone,” she said. “But solid business decisions have ensured the continued vitality of this news operation.”

Paul Thomas, ACS PA vice president and general manager, said the investment in the 177,000-square-feet press plant will make it one of central Pennsylvania’s leading printing facilities. It is a member of the IFRA International Newspaper Quality Club and has been the recipient of numerous awards for print quality and distribution.

“We have tremendous capacity in both volume and color,” Thomas said. “We care a great deal about quality reproduction. This increases our capacity for even more pages, more copies and greater speed. And we are currently in discussion with other regional clients.”

 

This article originally appeared on the PA Media Group website. Reprinted with permission. John Luciew can be reached at jluciew@pennlive.com.

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