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ARCHIVED  August 13, 1999

Print shop; Alliance 360

By Tom Hacker
Business Report Staff WriterFORT COLLINS — Just months after announcing its formation, one of Fort Collins’ largest combined prepress and commercial printing businesses has closed the press portion of its enterprise.
Alliance 360 Ltd. formed in February after the merger of Impressive Images Inc. of Fort Collins and Boulder with Choice Printing Inc. in Fort Collins. Alliance 360 president Gary Sapp said the pending closure of the commercial printing portion of his company did not mean his firm was out of business.
“We are not shutting down,” Sapp said. “We are closing down a segment of our business. Beyond that, I’m not going to comment on what our plans are. ` We are going through a transition, and that transition will continue through the end of the month.”
Print-shop workers, who account for most of Alliance 360’s 24 employees, have contacted other printers in the area about job opportunities.
Dale Lee, a printer who had worked for Sapp for three years until he joined American Business Communications Inc. in Fort Collins a month ago, said remaining employees were given notice during Aug. 5 meetings that their jobs would end.
“One of his pressmen came to here to apply for a job, and my understanding is they won’t be doing any more printing in the shop,” Lee said.
American Business Communications owner Matt Fries said he had been contacted by a number of Sapp’s former employees.
“We’ve had several of his people inquiring about jobs,” Fries said. “When Gary says he is closing down a portion of his business, he is certainly shutting down the major portion — the commercial printing operation.”
Fries, who said he had spoken at length with Sapp about the printing-business closure, said the Northern Colorado printing market had taken a toll on all printing businesses, and that Alliance was the latest to feel the pinch.
“This is the second fairly good-size print shop in Fort Collins that has shut down this year,” Fries said. “Pioneer Impressions closed after 25 years, and Gary has been in the business here for 15.”
An April Northern Colorado Business Report survey of commercial printers showed Alliance 360 was the fifth-largest in Northern Colorado, with 1998 sales of $2.25 million.
Fries said that profit margins in the print business — sometimes negative numbers because of competitive bidding — had crushed some print shops.
“What I feel like we’re seeing in commercial printing in Fort Collins is that printers do not realize the value of their time and their equipment,” he said. “Quite frankly, we’re not charging enough. When a company invests millions of dollars in new technology, the point is to increase the speed. It doesn’t mean you’re able to do a job more cheaply. It’s a very capital-intensive business, and when you are not charging what a job is really worth, it catches up with you.”
Scott Ackerman, Sapp’s former partner in Impressive Images Inc. and who left the business to start a competing prepress firm in 1997, said he thought Northern Colorado was not yet a large enough market to support the region’s proliferation of high-tech printing firms.
“It is true that, like in any other mature manufacturing industry, there is downward pressure on pricing,´ said Ackerman, who operates Synergy Graphics in Fort Collins. “But more than that, there is a lot of capacity in the area that is not being filled.”
Ackerman, who had held ownership shares in Impressive Images’ Fort Collins and Boulder operations following his departure to found Synergy, no longer has a financial interest in Sapp’s company.
Mark Steputis, president of Cheyenne-based Vision Graphics Inc., a firm that does much of its business along the northern Front Range of Colorado. said he was not surprised to hear of Alliance 360’s print-shop closure.
“I know that Impressive Images of Boulder closed, and that Gary laid off everybody in printing up here,” Steputis said. “Gary’s been working hard for a number of years to make a go of it, and I don’t think it was out of the blue. He’s been talking about reorganization for quite some time.”
Steputis said Vision Graphics’ sales have climbed 79 percent over the first seven months of 1999, and disagreed with assessments that Northern Colorado printers had idle capacity.
He cited a trade-industry report showing that $500 million in print jobs purchased in Colorado — about a third of the state’s total — were contracted to out-of-state printers.

By Tom Hacker
Business Report Staff WriterFORT COLLINS — Just months after announcing its formation, one of Fort Collins’ largest combined prepress and commercial printing businesses has closed the press portion of its enterprise.
Alliance 360 Ltd. formed in February after the merger of Impressive Images Inc. of Fort Collins and Boulder with Choice Printing Inc. in Fort Collins. Alliance 360 president Gary Sapp said the pending closure of the commercial printing portion of his company did not mean his firm was out of business.
“We are not shutting down,” Sapp said. “We are closing down a segment of our…

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