By Noel Ward, Executive Editor January 12, 2005 -- I was hoeing out my office over the holidays when I found a book of Calvin & Hobbes, of my favorite comic strips, penned by Bill Watterson. The strip ended on New Year's Eve in 1995. That happened to be a Sunday and I had cut the final color strip from the newspaper and kept it with the book. Copyright laws prevent me from showing the strip here, but it opens with Calvin and Hobbes trekking through deep snow with a toboggan. "Wow, it really snowed last night! Isn't it wonderful?" exclaims Calvin. "Everything familiar has disappeared!" replies Hobbes, "The world looks brand new! It's like having a big white sheet of paper to draw on!" "A day full of possibilities," affirms Calvin. As they mount the toboggan and push down a hill of fresh powder, Calvin notes, "It's a magical world, Hobbes, ol' buddy. Let's go exploring!" And that's just what we are all preparing to do, here on the edge of a new year. In talks I've given lately I've noted the pent-up demand I'm seeing among print providers who have adjusted to the current edition of "normal" and are looking to invest in new print engines, hardware and software. They are looking at ways of making their businesses more productive with new workflows and becoming more competitive with new services ranging from variable data printing to mailing and fulfillment to web-enabled print. These providers are going exploring: looking to take advantage of new opportunities and to grow--and even transform--their businesses. I see more and more transactional service bureaus adding color to their offerings. I see direct mail shops adding various web capes while financial services and insurance companies are being smarter about targeting customers with relevant marketing messages. For the early adopters, these very things have long since become business-as-usual, and now the followers are realizing the market is ready and they have to play the game if they are to survive. There is plenty of room left for all players--it's a matter of finding your own comfort level and making the moves you need to fit the needs of your customers and your market. This is part of what Nancy Ingalls discusses this week in her column, "New Ideas for a New Year." She offers some good thoughts on how you can explore new ideas for moving your business forward. Sometimes the moves that lead to success come from exploring different opportunities and fitting your business to them. In "Succeeding with a Non-traditional Approach" Carro Ford tells how IXT in Nashville, Tennessee began with little knowledge of the industry but has been successful by taking the road less traveled. Also this week is a column by Pete Rivard of the Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I met Pete a little over a year ago while on a video shoot for a vendor case study. Dunwoody is a topnotch technical school that turns out grads with the kind of hands-on practical knowledge print providers want their employees to have. All the students I met were articulate and tech-savvy, possessing not only day-to-day experience in the school's print production operations, but that acquired in co-op programs with local print providers running everything from flexo and big offset presses to the latest color digital print engines. At Xplor, I asked Pete if he would be interested in writing a column here at ODJ and am thrilled to welcome him aboard this week with his first column, "Trolling for Students." Finding qualified employees ranks among the top concerns of most printing business owners and Pete will be addressing this issue over the next few months. Also this week, Frank Romano warns us of the growing pressures surrounding postal rates, an issue of considerable importance as more printers add mailing services, even as some mail volumes shrink. Read "Going Postal" for Frank's take on this vital issue. And finally, Pat Taylor welcomes the New Year with some well-informed opinion on some things you may want to consider when investing in server technology for your shop. Don't miss "XSTUFF: Just the Facts." So welcome to 2005. As I noted before the holidays, we'll be coming at you daily this year. For now it'll be just one or two articles or columns per day, including white papers and case studies to keep you informed on the technologies we rely on and how some companies have used them for success. And we have more new features in the planning stages, so come with us as we go exploring.