APO.benfrankin.080309 “Everything is invented. Language. Childhood. Careers. Relationships. Religion. Philosophy. The future. They are not there for the plucking. They do not exist in some natural state. They must be invented by people. And that, of course, is a great thing. Don't mope in your room. Go invent something. That is the American message.” The inventions of printing’s patron saint, Benjamin Franklin, are strikingly illustrated in Can Do, the latest installment of an ongoing series by artist Maira Kalman for The New York Times. Can Do, from which the quote above is taken, is part of And the Pursuit of Happiness, Kalman’s monthly blog on American themes, events, and personalities. It has appeared at the Times web site on the last Friday of every month beginning on January 29, 2009. Can Do celebrates the “land of ingenuity” that America has been ever since Franklin’s day. Of the Philadelphia printer, Kalman also writes, “He believed in doing good every day...I don’t think he was ever bored.” Fired Up Graphics of Vancouver, WA, is a good example of the American can-do spirit—the screen printing and embroidery company has enjoyed 100% annual sales growth since Clint Greeley, a former firefighter, launched it four years ago. But this year, reports The Columbian, a daily serving Clark County, WA, Fired Up Graphics has run into an obstacle confronting many other small firms in the area—lack of access to capital as local banks shy away from making business loans. The story says that Greeley, seeking to buy another company in Vancouver, was approved for a $500,000 loan from the Small Business Administration (SBA). But then, he couldn’t find a bank willing to partner with SBA by providing the financing. A general decline in commercial lending will keep money tight in Clark County until the economy recovers, according to the story. Greeley’s attitude, however, remains can-do: “We're doing well and are going to expand, it’s just the way we expand might have to be a little more conservative,” he is quoted as saying. In Utica, NY, there’s a search for funds of another kind as union members try to collect back vacation pay and severance that they say is owed to them following the closure of Dodge Printing earlier this year. According to a news story in the Utica Observer-Dispatch, the workers—members of GCIU local 259M—have filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) asserting that the company failed to pay nearly $240,000 in severance and accrued vacation time when it closed without prior notice to the union on January 28. GCIU’s retirement fund sued Dodge last year over unpaid fringe benefits, an earlier story in the Observer-Dispatch reported. Dodge Printing, formerly known as Dodge Graphic Press, had been in business for 50 years before tightened credit and the loss of a major account convinced its owners to shut the doors. More than 50 employees were laid off, according to the Observer-Dispatch. Specialty Printing Inc. of Charleroi, PA, was the subject of a recent profile in The Valley Independent (Monessen, PA). The story reports that Specialty Printing, like many other family-owned graphics businesses, started in the basement of its founders’ home on a small-format sheetfed press. Joe and Arlene DeStefon launched the company in 1979, building upon Joe’s 16 years of experience as a worker and eventually a pressroom supervisor in an in-plant. Despite being mortgaged to the hilt at first, the story says, the DeStefons brought their operation out of the basement and established a thriving trade as printers to mailing houses. They modernized their production assets along the way, and the difference between their capabilities today and 30 years ago is vast. "What we did the first year in business, as far as pieces that we printed in our first whole year, we could do in one day now, probably less than a day,” Joe observes. Four days before the general announcement of Barack Obama’s selection of Joe Biden as his running mate, the news was shared in secret with a sign printer in Toledo, OH. Frank Ozanski, owner of Clear Images Promotional Products LLC, got word in connection with an order from the campaign to print his specialty, political yard signs, a niche that earned him a writeup in a recent issue of The Toledo Blade. Right now, the story says, the company is gearing up for the Toledo mayoral primary election, which takes place in about seven weeks. Ozanski and his staff of 10 have printed signs for four of the candidates. Small yard signs sell for $1 to $3, and the story notes that even in a time when online social networking is revolutionizing political campaigns, these time-honored printed pieces still have their uses. "It's all about name recognition," Ozanski is quoted as saying. "People have got to be able to look at it at 55 miles an hour and remember the name they saw."