PMG's $1 million investment at its press is fueled by faith in the future of print media

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: VERN UYETAKE - Pamplin Media Group press operator Steve Kaluzne checks on the new "three-wide assembly" added to the 1972-vintage printing press at the company's Gresham facility.It's an increasingly digital world, they say, but the incessant whirring, clicking and clacking at the Pamplin Media Group printing operations facility, where employees scurry and toil among newly installed press equipment, suggests words on paper still have a valid place at the morning breakfast table.

An extensive, recently completed remodeling of the long, low-slung Gresham — which has produced the Hillsboro Tribuneand News-Times on a weekly basis for years — now accommodates the printing of all 22 Pamplin newspapers in the region. Also, upgrades to the main press and new inserting machines installed where reporters and advertising staff once worked significantly increase the plant's efficiency and capacity for outside commercial printing.

For PMG President Mark Garber, this spring's conclusion of the more than $1 million project demonstrates the community newspaper group's ongoing vibrancy as well as faith in print media's future.

"This expansion allows us to print all of our newspapers in our own facility," he said. "Previously, we had to outsource a portion of our newspaper printing to another company. This change is good for us, because we save the expense of outsourcing while preserving and expanding the 35-person workforce at our Gresham printing plant."

The ability to insert more supplemental advertising materials, Garber added, benefits readers of Pamplin publications as well as customers with printing needs.

"Our readers appreciate seeing the specials and coupons contained in these inserts, and we want to be able to process them efficiently and not have to turn any of them away," he said.

Community anchor

The remodeling, which began in earnest last fall, created a significant upheaval at the 46-year-old Division Street building, where press operators, assistants and administrative employees continued working during construction.

PMG printing operations General Manager Don Atwell credits his approximately 40 full- and part-time employees with rolling with the punches through the project's controlled chaos.

"I'm really pleased with how things have gone so far," he said. "Our employees have really stepped up to make sure we're able to meet these additional challenges."

Before the major remodel project even began, the addition of inserting equipment had already forced the newsroom and advertising sales departments for The Outlook and Sandy Post, sister publications of this newspaper, to relocate to leased, second-floor office space around the block in the Burnside Plaza building at 1584 N.E. Eighth St.

Atwell said the project's benefits easily outweigh the inconveniences and displacements it created.

"It absolutely makes financial sense," he said. "And we now have complete quality control over all our products."

Garber praises Atwell and Printing Operations Manager Blake Jensen with keeping multiple plates spinning amidst the swirl of changes.

"(They) did an excellent job of coordinating this project while also keeping the presses running and making sure our current business operations weren't interrupted," he said. "The employees at the press plant had to work around a lot of disruptions inherent in any remodel ... now that it is complete, we have more space for our workflow than we ever have before."

The entire project, including equipment, remodeling, rebuilding of the press, paving, HVAC and other improvements represents a more than $1 million capital funding investment. Including the new newsroom/advertising office and leased warehouse space on East Burnside Street to store inserts, the project notably expands PMG's footprint in East Multnomah County.

"Altogether, we are occupying 20,000 square feet of commercial space in Gresham and employing more than 50 people there," Garber said.

Here to stay

Owned by Portland businessman Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr., Pamplin Media Group has 230 employees in 13 offices in western and Central Oregon. Its 24 community-focused papers include The Portland Tribune, The Beaverton/Tigard/Tualatin Times, Columbia County Spotlight, Newberg Graphic and Lake Oswego Review.

For logistical reasons, two PMG newspapers, The Central Oregonian and Madras Pioneer, will continue to be printed at PMG's Prineville facility rather than Gresham.

Atwell, a 10-year PMG veteran who has worked in the newspaper business since he was 16, said with the project the company is doing its part to keep printing services and print news media alive and available amid the encroaching influence of digital platforms.

"Our company certainly doesn't believe the newspaper industry is completely drying up," Atwell said. "It's changing significantly. What we're trying to do here is make sure it remains viable.

"We recognize that circulation numbers have gone down in the last several years," he added, "but we also know the best place to receive accurate, local information is the local newspaper. And we don't see that going away anytime soon."

Also acknowledging the evolving reader preferences that challenge the dominance of print newspapers, Garber sees the PMG expansion as a clear vote of confidence for the community journalism model.

"It's telling that (Robert B. Pamplin) is making this investment in press equipment at a time when other newspapers in the Portland area have decided to outsource their printing, and sell off their press plants and other buildings," he said. "It shows that Pamplin Media is here for the long term. We have that stability because we have always focused on local news. At this point, no one else does what we do, which is to put reporters, photographers and editors on the ground in each of the communities around Portland."

Long-term viability, Garber noted, comes from investing in talented, dedicated employees, equipment to meet current and future demands, and a laser focus on each individual community.

"In addition to having our own printing plant, we also employ more journalists than any other news organization in Oregon, producing vastly more local content than any other media," he said. "That's why we will be around for many years to come."

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