See Letter from PIA's Michael Makin

Last week, with no public announcement, the Printing Industries of America dismissed 15 employees with little or no notice, according to sources. Some had over 30 years of service to GATF, with whom PIA merged in the late 1990s. 

It is rumored that the PIA building in Sewickley, PA will be put up for sale and that PIA will move into offices in Pittsburgh, PA proper. Most, if not all, of their large offset presses are gone. NAPL also sold its building a few years ago, but it was in a highly desirable NJ location at the top of the real estate market. 

There had been discussions of a merger between PIA and NAPL but these were broken off. The PIA organization is based on an affiliate structure where members are first part of a local group with automatic membership in the national group. NAPL is general membership organization and uses print and other communication to create a homogenous group. 

At one time, PIA had 50 or so local affiliates, often state-oriented; today, the number is 30 or less. Some of the affiliates have merged to create mega-groups on a large geographic scale and may not be able to address local needs as they once did. 

With the loss of almost half of all printers in the U.S., the effect on printing trade associations has been profound. Both organizations share in two-thirds of the net revenue from the Graph Expo and PRINT shows, but that revenue has declined significantly in the last few years. What revenue there is has been the result of innovation and new thinking by the Graphic Arts Show Company. 

Many printers choose not to belong to either association and have created special peer groups to address their needs. Printers tell me that that the traditional printing association, with executives commanding six-figure salaries, may be incongruous in the new world of print that is evolving. Some say that both boards of directors have not been as responsive to their membership. “It is still a small clique that runs our trade associations,” I have been told. 

In the last few years various printing associations have gone out of business or merged with others. Some former members use forums on Facebook or LinkedIn to keep a dialogue going. The traditional suppliers who once paid high amounts to support the printing industry trade associations are dwindling and newer suppliers do not see the benefit. 

I believe that we need associations, but it is time for new leadership at the associations we have, if we are to have any associations at all.