Phoenix firm's future is one thing you can make book on

April 13, 1998

It was nice to see that the Phoenix Color Corp. has decided to expand in Washington County, building a book manufacturing plant next to the county airport.

The new complex will eventually hire about 600 people, the number of full-time, book-making employees it will no-doubt take to meet the demand of people trying to profit from the Clinton sex scandals.

Phoenix Color, which pays up to $18 an hour, was obviously one of the best catches for Washington County's economy this decade. To pay for the expansion, Phoenix will go public and sell stock, an issue I want to get in on the ground floor of.


I think I do, anyway. It may be stretching things to bet my future - in this instant gratification, drive through-banking, fast food-eating, education-shunning, Jerry Springer-watching society - on a company that depends for its profits on books.

I might end up like a guy in 1900 who sank his entire personal savings into an interest that manufactured state-of-the-art kerosene lamps.

But this must be a good risk, because the move was applauded by such dignitaries as Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who said that - I've just been handed a note that says it was John Howard the chief of the Washington County Economic Development Commission, not the head of the ruling party Down Under, who made the presentation. (I bet he doesn't hear that one much).

Howard, who interrupted his speech several times to accept the resignations of various EDC staff members, called Phoenix "our newest major ambassador" as a magnet for attracting new business to Washington County.

Heck, if Phoenix Color, as an ambassador, can succeed in bringing new manufacturing jobs into Washington County, what couldn't it do about the situation in Iraq?

This is a big win for Howard, who is right about the importance of Phoenix Color. But on a related matter, I have to quibble with the new EDC chief's ability to choose slogans.

As a motto for the Washington County EDC, Howard last week suggested "Pride through Performance."

Pride through performance. That's all right I guess, but - well it sounds like a brand of gasoline. I can see Jerry Seinfeld holding up a pump nozzle and saying "Put a tiger in your tank and get the pride that comes with performance."

But that's probably just me.

So anyway, I wonder what implications the Phoenix expansion has for that 18th century chalet that was the dwelling spot of one Ludwig Kammerer, which is somewhere in the general vicinity.

No one had ever heard of this house until a local industrial foundation proposed it be torn down. Suddenly old Ludwig had more long lost relatives than Howard Hughes, and a house no one had given beans about became the greatest historic treasure since the Parthenon.

How historic is it? For convenience it was built over a spring. Try doing that today with modern floodplain regulations. How historic is it? In the walls are slits especially hewn for the extrusion of gun barrels. In this regard Ludwig Kammerer would appear to have had the legal advantage over David Koresh.

Anyway, Phoenix CEO Louis LaSorsa mentioned last week his company had sunk $40,000 into a potential plan to renovate downtown Hagerstown's Baldwin House, which, coincidentally, happens to be the only building in America in worse structural shape than Chez Ludwig.

Perhaps Phoenix could buy This Old House and turn it into a museum or something. Probably wouldn't work though. Books are enough of a reach. Establishing your livelihood on America's educational interests in both reading and history is probably far too much to ask of any company.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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