“This man is an author. He writes stories. He has just finished a story. He thinks many people will like to read it. So, he must have the story made into a book. “Let’s see how the book is made.” So begins “Making Books,” produced by Encyclopedia Britannica in 1947. The simple declarative sentences of the narration guide us through the equally straightforward steps of analog book manufacturing in the letterpress days: typesetting on the Linotype; page composition and lockup; stereotyped copper plating from wax molds; plate cutting; flatbed printing; folding; sewing by “girls” tending stitchers in the bindery; trimming; cover making; gold stamping; and casing in. It looks so antiquated that the presence of the camera almost seems to be a strange visitation from a future where these processes have long since ceased to exist. But, it was only sixty-three years ago. “Watching this and the Espresso Book Machine together really give you a new perspective on book printing,” comments an astute observer at YouTube (which is full of short films about the bygone tools and techniques of print). The differences between the two methods couldn’t be more dramatic, but, lest we forget, the product that comes out of the back end of the labor-intensive workflow from 1947 and the robotic device from 2010 is identical. Print technologies may not endure, but printed books always will. With $1.5 billion in revenues and 70 locations in 27 states, Consolidated Graphics is nobody’s idea of a small printing company. But, its network consists mostly of small to mid-sized firms, and because there are so many of them, Consolidated Graphics has a bottomless appetite for the kind of managerial talent that companies of every size covet. Smart Business Houston recently profiled an ongoing effort by Joe R. Davis, chairman and CEO, to home-grow the executives his network needs: the Leadership Development Program (also covered in this article at WhatTheyThink). Davis seeks out bright, accomplished, and highly motivated college graduates for an intensive learning experience that consists of progressive on-the-job training with continuous evaluation and review. Successful trainees—there have been 278 since the program’s start in 1991—are offered a choice of career paths that have the top jobs at Consolidated Graphics companies as their ultimate objectives. In the profile, Davis is explicit about his determination to cultivate only the best of the best. “Anybody we hire out of college we think has the potential to be a company president, or we don’t hire them,” he is quoted as saying. Even with the Leadership Development Program, he evidently can’t hire enough of these go-getters: “We can acquire a lot more companies today if we had enough people to run them.” Philadelphia Business Journal took an upbeat look at BentleyRowland, a Phoenixville, PA, commercial printing company formed in May by the merger of Bentley Graphics and Rowland Printing. According to the story, the respective owners, Jamie Bentley and Jim Rowland, met over lunch in January and made the happy discovery that while their capabilities were complementary, their customer bases didn’t overlap. By merging and trimming the total workforce from 60 to 45, says the story, the partners reduced overhead. At the same time, cross-selling helped to increase sales per customer. This combinative strategy, according to Rowland, is the response that other printers should make to the industry’s besetting problems of overcapacity and price warfare. “Our biggest problem is our own industry,” he is quoted as saying. “We cannibalize ourselves.” The partners say that their special competitive edge is HDUV printing, a process that joins high-resolution stochastic screening with inline UV inking and curing on an offset press. BentleyRowland claims to be the only printer in the mid-Atlantic region and one of just a few in the U.S. to offer this service. The installation of a $600,000 wide-format inkjet printer at Ambassador Press in Minneapolis is one indication that Minnesota businesses have begun to spend again, reports this story from the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune. According to the story, anecdotal evidence such as this suggests that the state’s small and medium-sized firms are investing again as credit becomes more available and long-suppressed demand for their services starts to come back. “The businesses in our survey are stepping up and saying this economic downturn is over and we are heading into growth,” one state economist is quoted as saying. The story says that in the case of Ambassador Press, loans and a tax revenue bond have enabled CEO Ed Engle to invest $9.1 million in wide- and superwide-format inkjet equipment that will enable him and his 78 employees to switch from small commercial jobs to jumbo signage and banners. Specialization in this new niche is his plan for business survival: "You either keep moving along or you are going to die," he is quoted as saying. The father of the editor of this blog used to upbraid his slowpoke son for behaving like molasses by declaring, with unconcealed exasperation, “What are you waiting for—an engraved invitation?” Memory has it that such an invitation never was received, but Pop certainly could have obtained one from Royal Engraving, the subject of this recent regional profile in The New York Times. The piece focuses on Royal Engraving’s contract to provide engraved high school diplomas for New York City’s Department of Education, which it produces, along with other engraved specialties, in an 11,000-sq.-ft. plant in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn. The shop, according to the story, relies on “17 ink-stained engraving presses dating as far back as the 1880s” to imprint documents from acid-etched copper plates that are prepared for it by an outside source. The company produces diplomas by the tens of thousands using this method, which has not changed in decades. Also offered are holiday cards, wedding invitations, letterhead, envelopes, folders, and labels. Royal Engraving traces its origins to 1924, when it opened for business on Fulton Street in Manhattan. SHORT TAKES: The Columbus Dispatch reports that Serigraphie Richford of Montreal will open a glass printing plant in Lancaster, OH, in September. The plant, the company’s first in the U.S., is expected to employ 100 people by 2012. Serigraphie Richford specializes in printing and decorating glass containers for food, perfume, and liquor brands including Jack Daniels, Maker's Mark, and Smirnoff. It uses screen-printing and frosting or glass etching to apply logos, images and designs to the glass.