SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Even as digital media continues to grow, print advertising and communication is alive and well at Quad/Graphics’ Saratoga Springs plant, where the workforce has expanded 20 percent over the past two years and more hiring is planned in May and June.
The plant in 2016 turned nearly 330 million pounds of paper into magazines, catalogs and advertising inserts totaling approximately 77 billion pages. Production, as measured in pages printed, has increased 26 percent in six years, from 61.2 billion pages in 2010 to 76.9 billion in 2016.
“It's the most modern, efficient plant in the Northeast,” said plant director Dan Frankowski, explaining the reason for the facility's growth.
But even as Quad continues to chase print contracts, it is pursuing the digital side of advertising and communications, positioning itself to offer marketing online and through social media so it can provide the full suite of strategies to clients.
“People use multiple channels to shop,” said Claire Ho, director of corporate communications at Quad’s Wisconsin headquarters. “We help brand owners market more efficiently and profitably.”
Quad/Graphics was founded in 1971 near Milwaukee by Harry Quadracci, whose son Joel is now chairman, president and CEO.
In its second decade, Quad realized the value of having its production close to its customers, and in 1985, the company opened its first plant outside of Wisconsin -- in Saratoga Springs. The company now operates 57 printing plants nationwide, plus additional plants in Europe and South America. The facilities range from very small to very large; they are sized based on the markets they serve.
The Saratoga Springs plant -- a day’s drive from a huge swath of the U.S. and Canadian population -- is one of Quad’s seven U.S. “megaplants,” which each exceed 1 million square feet of manufacturing space.
The publicly traded company reported $4.33 billion in 2016 sales.
Among the best-known publications printed at the Saratoga plant are People, Time and Sports Illustrated. Retail catalogs include LEGO, Lord & Taylor and Dover Saddlery. Retail ads -- the slick pages inserted in the middle of newspapers -- include CVS, Hannaford and Lidl.
Making it all happen is a crew of just over 900 who work in varied shifts around the clock, Frankowski said.
In May or June, Frankowski will start hiring again -- full-time, part-time and even some seasonal employees -- as the second half of the year is busier than the first half at the plant.
The best-paid jobs call for skills and judgment that aren’t learned in a classroom. Many employees start in unskilled entry-level positions, and move to the next level through a company training program or through time and experience on the job.
“We are excellent at training,” Ho said. “If you do not have the skills, we will teach them to you.”
Frankowski said the Saratoga plant has apprenticeship programs through local high schools, including Ballston Spa and Saratoga Springs, that are designed for students who are not on a college track.
“They begin to learn about the art and science of printing,” he said, both through classroom learning and hands-on training with an assigned mentor.
Frankowski is a product himself of such a program -- a cooperative learning experience through high school in his native Wisconsin, starting at the age of 16. Thirty years later, he’s risen through the ranks to run the Saratoga plant, which Ho said is not uncommon. Several of Quad’s plant directors, some of its vice presidents and even a senior vice president never even went to college, she said. Their education and training have been on the job.
Frankowski -- who did graduate from college -- said the entry-level employees start at $13 an hour and can move to $16 in their first year. Skilled and experienced employees make $70,000 or more per year, he said.
“If you've got the passion and the work ethic and want to grow yourself, it's a great company,” he said.
The workforce in Saratoga is not unionized.
Looking to the future, Frankowski and Ho said Quad does not feel threatened by the rise of digital media -- it sees it as an opportunity, both for its traditional print business and for its new digital marketing services.
“The printed product that we have in the digital age all works together with the company’s brand,” Frankowski said. It’s part of the overall package -- the attractive catalogs and magazines printed in Saratoga help drive traffic to digital media, he explained, so Quad pitches the whole package to customers.
“I think the Internet has really helped us.”