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Phoenix Color shows off new plant

July 29, 1999

Phoenix printerBy KERRY LYNN FRALEY / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




The first building in a planned $150 million book manufacturing complex near Hagerstown Regional Airport was dedicated Wednesday after what the company's president called "an absolutely unheard of" schedule for a project of its scope and complexity.

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An afternoon open house gave several hundred customers, employees, government officials and other guests a look inside Phoenix Color Corp.'s new 150,000-square-foot book manufacturing plant, which started turning out softcover books in mid-June.

Phoenix Color President and Chief Executive Officer Louis LaSorsa thanked God and numerous people - his family, his employees and their families, public officials and civil servants, Callas Contractors Inc. and everyone who worked on the plant's construction - for getting the project done in 18 to 19 months.

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While everything is going well at the new plant, the original schedule for the complex, called the Book Technology Park, has been pushed back, according to a company official.

There won't be as many buildings or employees by the end of 1999 as originally envisioned, said Jim Booth, vice president of human resources.

Phoenix binderWhen he announced plans for the campus-style book manufacturing complex in April 1998, LaSorsa said he expected at least 200 jobs would be available at the park by the end of 1999.

At the time, plans for the $38 million first phase called for one plant and a multi-story office building for the corporate headquarters, LaSorsa had said.

Several other book manufacturing plants would be added over time, he said.

Plans to relocate the company's headquarters from Western Maryland Parkway to a new office building at the park have been put off for now, Booth said during an interview following the open house.

The first plant, where workbook- and digest-sized books are being printed, bound and packaged, will employ 150 to 200 people when it's operating 24 hours, seven days a week, with four crews, he said.

When that is will be based on when business warrants it, said Booth, who said he couldn't give a timeline.

At this point, the plant is operating on one shift, five days a week, with about 30 employees, most of them newly hired, he said.

New jobs at the Book Technology Park will pay from $7.50 an hour for entry-level employees to between $17 and $18, he said.

Acquisitions the company made earlier this year have been a factor in the change of plans, Booth said.

The company wasn't planning to buy TechniGraphix, a Virginia-based company specializing in printing small orders of books, and Illinois-based Mid-City Lithographers, a book components manufacturer, when LaSorsa made his announcement, he said.

The new corporate building at the Book Technology Park is still in the planning stages, but there's no set date for construction, Booth said.

There's not a pressing need for a new building yet, though there's expected to be a need as time goes on, he said.

Three more manufacturing plants are planned for the complex including one for expansion of the company's print-on-demand operation in Sterling, Va., acquired in the TechniGraphix deal.

LaSorsa's prediction that the complex will eventually employ about 600 workers is still "in the ballpark," Booth said.

But he said he couldn't say when that might be.

Phoenix Color moved its corporate headquarters from New York to Hagerstown in 1992.

It opened its first local plant, making book components like paperback covers and book jackets, on Tandy Drive in 1993 with 45 employees.

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