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Commentary & Analysis

FREE: Election Day Approaches to Determine the New Headquarters of GATF/PIA

On November 16,

By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: November 13, 2003

On November 16, at a meeting in San Antonio, TX, the Boards of Printing Industries of America (PIA) and the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (GATF) will decide which city--(Sewickley, PA or Waukesha, WI)--will be the new home of the combined organizations. No matter what the outcome, the decision will have a profound effect on the future of GATF/PIA.

We discussed this topic with many printers and interested parties. “The move” is very political at this stage with passionate and respectable proponents on both sides of the issue. We uncovered many false/untrue rumors and exaggerated facts about each location that prompted us to publish this report. The purpose of this piece is to provide a factual reference point for those following this story.

Although the two organizations agreed to consolidate in 1999, they have maintained separate headquarters. Currently, PIA's headquarters is in Alexandria, Virginia and GATF is located in Sewickley, PA.

Over the years, the potential relocation of GATF's headquarters has been discussed by those who believe the facility is in an inconvenient location and expensive to reach. The issue became more pressing once PIA and GATF consolidated. A site selection committee was named, co-chaired by elected leaders from both organizations: John Green, representing PIA and Gerry Henseler, representing GATF.

After a review that lasted more than one year, the field of candidates was narrowed to Sewickley and Waukesha. Other cities initially considered included Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, the Quad Cities and St. Louis.

PIA owns its building in Alexandria, VA. It is the intention of the organization to sell its headquarters and use some of the proceeds to offset its relocation expenses. The organization will maintain a satellite office in the Washington area to house its government affairs, economics, and human resource functions.

To Stay or to Go: Highlights of the proposals

The case for Sewickley, Proponents Say:

Sewickley's proposal includes a plan to enlarge its headquarters to accommodate an on-site storage facility and allow for additional staff. A number of upgrades to the interior of the headquarters would also be made.

The headquarters is serviced by the Pittsburgh International Airport, the third largest airport in the country and a number of affordable hotels within 10 miles of the facility. The airport, according to Mapquest, is 16 miles, 20 minutes from the facility.

Remaining in Sewickley, the core competencies of the technical staff would be retained and there would be no loss of service to the industry.

The cost of relocating press equipment in the current facility is over $500,000.

Since it is located close to Pittsburgh, the organization could work with universities such as Carnegie Mellon.

There are, within a six hour drive, 80 of the 400 largest printing companies, 2,233 printers, almost 68,000 employees, totaling $9.8 billion in annual sales.

Various levels of government within the state of Pennsylvania have committed $300,000 for the headquarters to remain in the state.

The case for Waukesha, Proponents Say:

Waukesha would build a 50,000 square foot building on the grounds of Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC). The building would be adjacent to the new Harry V. Quadracci Printing and Graphics Center, an educational center for printing skills. The cost of the new building would be approximately $5 million. GATF/PIA would not own the building, but would lease it from the college. (GATF/PIA staff, members and visitors would be allowed access to the resources inside the Quadracci center and use facilities within their own building for training.)

The state has offered $500,000 in relocation and training incentives and authorized WCTC to borrow up to $5 million for the building's construction. Last week, Waukesha County officials approved $100,000 in additional incentives for job creation at the new site.

Being on the campus of a technical college with a well-funded and comprehensive graphic arts and printing training program makes finding qualified staff easy. The site is located near other higher education centers such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Marquette University.

The campus of WCTC is twenty-six miles, a twenty-seven minute drive from the closest airport, according to Mapquest. It is located in the Milwaukee/Chicago corridor within 500 miles of 11,000 printing companies, totaling almost $24 billion dollars in printing shipments.

There are hotels within easy driving distance, including major hotel chains.

The new facility would be designed with the capacity for expanded research, consulting, and testing activities.

Because the new facility would be close to major printing and paper industry clusters, additional research partners could be attracted to GATF/PIA.

What Printers Think:

There are many people following this story even though there has been very little written about it in the trade press. In a request WTT sent to our readers, printers contacted us with differing opinions. Obviously, most printers want GATF/PIA's headquarters to be located near their facility. So printers closer to Sewickley wanted no change in the location. Printers located nearer to Waukesha obviously selected Waukesha.

Interestingly, several printers stated that both locations were not optimal and were too remote.

Important issues from the printer's perspective are location and people. Everyone wants a good location, however subjective that may be, and most everyone wants to ensure that the current GATF staff remains mostly intact.

Summary:

There is much more to this story than what has been published here. As the vote gets closer, the rumors and exaggerations have heated up but must be filtered out by Board members when the final vote is cast. In speaking with several Board members, we believe the decision will not be handled lightly and that their votes will be in the best interest of the industry, according to their convictions.

Clearly, there will be disappointed people on November 16th . After the vote, both sides have a responsibility to re-assure the membership that the association is not divided – but unified and ready for an exciting future.

 

 

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