Today, there are 28 states, plus the District of Columbia, that  have issued “Stay at Home” orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic (see table). In most states, this has required closure of all non-essential businesses while essential businesses and their essential supply chains may remain open. However, there is a great deal of confusion around when and where print qualifies as an essential supply and the definition may vary by state and even by county. Nevada has not provided any exemption for the supply chain to essential businesses while other states, such as Minnesota, have excluded print from the list of essential suppliers.

Open for Business Stay at Home Order
1.         Alabama 1.         California
2.         Alaska 2.         Colorado
3.         Arizona 3.         Connecticut
4.         Arkansas 4.         Delaware
5.         Florida 5.         District of Columbia
6.         Georgia 6.         Hawaii
7.         Iowa 7.         Idaho
8.        Kentucky 8.         Illinois
9.        Missouri 9.         Indiana
10.   Montana 10.   Kansas
11.   Nebraska 11.   Louisiana
12.   New Hampshire 12.   Maine
13.  North Carolina 13.   Maryland
14.   North Dakota 14.   Massachusetts
15.   Oklahoma 15.   Michigan
16.   Rhode Island 16.   Minnesota
17.   South Carolina 17.   Mississippi
18.   South Dakota 18.   Nevada*
19.   Tennessee 19.   New Jersey
20.  Texas 20.   New Mexico
21.   Utah 21.   New York
22.   Wyoming 22.   Ohio
  23.   Oregon
  24.   Pennsylvania
  25.   Vermont
  26.   Virginia
  27.   West Virginia
  28.   Washington
  29.   Wisconsin

Changes are happening on a daily basis, with several additional states (in bold) poised to issue new restrictions in the coming week. Many print businesses are shut down with no way to deliver contracted work, while others are open for business but their clients may be closed for business and cancelling print orders.

While many of us are eager to find ways to help the people in our communities manage through this crisis, the issues the print industry is facing can feel overwhelming and it’s difficult to know where to start. I spoke about these challenges with David Rosendahl, president and co-founder of MindFire, who said, “I'm getting texts, calls, and emails from printers around the country who need help. Either they're shutting down, laying people off, or facing a sharp decrease in sales. At the same time, I’m getting requests for help from brands and printers with overflow work.” He was able to make a dozen or more introductions between those needing work and those needing to outsource within his network but very quickly found that, even with the best intentions, he was becoming a bottleneck in the process.

On Tuesday of this week, Rosendahl removed that bottleneck by establishing the aptly named COVID-19 Printing Group on Since starting the group on Tuesday, it has grown to 787 members. Rosendahl’s goal is to amplify the potential for help and solutions by bringing the print community together to “help keep families fed and businesses alive during this trying time.” The majority of posts in the group are from printers letting the community know that they are open for business and can take overflow. Printers needing to send business out can contact members privately, or contact the group managers to post an anonymous inquiry or request for quote. Roughly half a dozen “matchmaking” requests have come in already this week. However, many more requests may have been initiated directly between members. Rosendahl emphasized that neither he, nor MindFire, are making any money from the group or their networking efforts on behalf of printers; they are doing it to help keep their friends and customers in business. MindFire offers a marketing platform that is used by more than 15,000 companies in many business segments, but printers are a personal area of focus and interest for Rosendahl. He guided the company to serve commercial printers like Alphagraphics, Fiserv, and Shutterfly with their own marketing efforts and in using MindFire products to develop new service offers for their clients. MindFire is a social media powerhouse that values print and is using their skills to give back.

The group has quickly become a source for sharing information on COVID-related relief programs and ideas for generating business. Despite so many print colleagues being out of work, and many others attempting to work remotely, the dialog in the group is very upbeat: “We’re open! How can we help? Here’s an idea…” It’s also heartening to see that offers to help are not just coming from the companies looking to take on print work from those that have been forced to close.

Sheri Robertson with Ace Designs Inc. of Bristol, Pa., posted that their company has the ability to operate. However since 98% of their clients are in retail and stores are closed, their business has evaporated. They have most of their employees on standby and are ready to open at a moment’s notice. Meanwhile, they are putting their efforts, pro bono, into helping healthcare workers. They developed a make-shift version of a surgical shield (see picture) and are donating them to local hospitals. Employees are donating their time and the company is donating machine time, but they need more material.

Robertson says, “Our CEO is truly one of the kindest people I have ever known and has encouraged me to find ways to help those around us in this crazy time. We all just want to get back to normal, but until we can, we should be doing good in the world not complaining about what’s happening.” The company is also willing to share their design and approach with others who want to help. Robertson posted, “I’m happy to share our design specs and files if it helps out health care providers. We are taking any material we can get to keep producing. We are donating everything we make.” This started a group conversation with multiple members asking for the design and sharing information on production. Other companies are looking at producing and donating the shields while some may be sources of raw material. This is just one example of valuable information being shared in the group that has the potential to amplify the efforts of the individual group members.

Rosendahl and his team are continuing to moderate and evolve the group, but they clearly hit a nerve. He is also considering the potential for supplies matchmaking to enable printers who are closed to sell off paper inventory to printers who are dealing with supply chain issues, or simply taking on new types of work. As the industry comes together to weather the COVID-19 pandemic, this group is a rallying point for information sharing, idea generation and motivation. If you are looking for work, looking for a partner to take on work, or looking for ideas on how to use your operation to help people on the front lines, join the COVID-19 Print Group and please continue to follow recommendations on social distancing, working from home and keeping friends, family and coworkers safe.

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