Late summer in the South is typically hot and steamy and Atlanta and Dallas lived up to that expectation. Yet it was cool, inquisitive and level headed discussions that proved to be of value at both southern Print and Publishing Industry Seminar venues. The most unique location to date was The Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, home of the Texas Rangers. The event was held in The Ballpark Museum where an incredible display of not only Texas Ranger and Washington Senators (predecessor team) memorabilia are on display, but also artifacts from all of major league baseball and many other sports.

Vince Naselli and I are starting to see a new paradigm develop from the list of attendees. Instead of seeing a large representation from commercial printers we are witnessing fulfillment and mailing houses, logistic companies, marketing and database list organizations fill the seats. These people are looking to expand their business offerings. In Dallas, I spoke with four different companies and two in Atlanta like this. All basically said the same thing. They have the database capability already, now they see the opportunity to offer a new service in digital print and more specifically variable data or personalized print to their customer base. My conclusion - printers beware. You have new competition from organizations you never knew existed.

Three interesting people who attended the Atlanta event - an in-plant airline operations manager, a woman who started a creative agency with her husband and a transactional service bureau printer from South Carolina. The airline representative said he found this seminar very educational and would love to see more of these type of events geared for in-plants. He suggested that Xerox should start a digital print users group with specialty subgroups for in-plants. In-plants have needs different than the commercial printer that he feels are not being adequately addressed by any organization.

The woman from the creative agency just moved from her home into a real office. She knows that she can’t be like any other creative firm and is looking to distinguish her company by learning how to not only design for variable data printing, but to offer some limited print services for test marketing purposes in the very short run marketplace. She has a friend with database experience who just got laid off from IBM and feels they could attract work combining talents to small business owners.

The gentleman from South Carolina has a substantial business doing monochrome statement work for local credit unions and healthcare organizations. He currently inserts many supplied flyers in the credit union statements and is now considering the combination of statement printing and full color promotional as an offering. This is a big step for him since he knows very little about color and doesn’t want to fail.

Personally, the highlight of this southern swing was an invitation to visit Laser Copy of Arlington, Texas. Carl Byrd started the company in the mid 80’s and I met him two years ago at a PIA Digital Print Council meeting. After hearing the presentations he asked if I had a few moments before leaving to visit his operation. He was just down the road. Of course, I couldn’t say no to such a wonderful invitation. I love to visit visionary company plants. Carl’s 16 person plant has 2 – DocuColor 2060’s, a DocuTech 135 & 6135 and a Xerox VivaGrafX 36" wide Inkjet printer. He bills himself as a Digital Production Center for trade businesses. He knows the large commercial printers in the Dallas/Ft Worth area either don’t understand the digital print world or aren’t quite ready to get involved. So when they have a need for very short runs or variable print they have a confidential trade source for their customers. He makes his trade partners look "like heroes everyday". After seeing his plant and the quality of work coming off those DocuColor 2060’s maybe those commercial printers should be looking to Laser Copy in a different light. Maybe?

The seminar program now moves East to the Big Apple and Philadelphia. See you there!