Who says you can’t teach old dogs new tricks? Long-time Parsons business, McClain Printing, is doing just that with the addition of two new major pieces of equipment.
McClain Printing is a third generation family-run business in the same location for 56 years. Currently headed by Ken Smith- President and CEO (McClain was his mother’s family). Smith’s grandparents originally bought and ran The Parsons Advocate 1943 and then his Grandfather (also Ken, his namesake) opened the printing company in 1958. Smith moved here from Terra Alta in 1971 when he was 10 and was a 1979 graduate of Tucker County High School. After four years in the Air Force, Smith came back in 1984 and started to manage the business after the flood of ’85. While his mother ran the Advocate, Smith shared responsibilities with his father, George, for the first ten years.
At its peak, McClain Printing boasted 28 employees and currently still has 20 full-time employees in spite of modernization. According to Smith, the printing industry has suffered a 40% decline from 2000-2012.
McClain’s has already weathered two printing industry recessions- one in the early 2000’s and one between 2008-2011. Smith attributes the main reason for the decline to the fact that very few paper forms are used anymore.
“Fifty years ago when someone went to the hospital, they (staff) would pull out a paper form, then another, and another, now it’s all electronic,” said Smith.
“We have survived because of efficiency. That’s why we’ve purchased these two machines,” Smith said.
The first machine is a gently-used Heidelberg ST270 saddle stitcher machine. This machine collates, stitches, and trims books anywhere from an eight page minimum up to 96 pages plus cover. Installed in October, the ST270 can crank out 11,000 an hour at maximum speed and cost approximately a quarter of a million dollars installed.
“We had this ability before but at a much slower rate. This doubles my speed and eliminates the need to score and fold covers. The old machine (1982 model) was very difficult to buy parts for,” said Smith.
The second machine is brand new. The MBO T535 is a continuous feed paper folder. It can be operated by one person but at maximum speed can require three people to keep up with it. It does exactly what it sounds like: folds the paper. McClain’s already had a paper folder but it was not a continuous feed.
As proud as Smith is of the new equipment, he is equally proud of the fact that of his company’s 2.25 million dollars in total gross sales, 85% of that revenue is out-of-state monies brought into West Virginia.
Most of McClain’s work comes from the Metro D.C. area. Smith said: “Most of the work we get is from other printers, jobs too large, too difficult, so they subcontract it to me.”
Like most of us in Tucker County know, logistics can be a problem. Getting end raw materials like paper from Pittsburgh and other materials from the whole Eastern U.S.A. poses a challenge. Never-the-less Smith is up for the task.
“I live the same life as my customers, but at the end of the day I get to walk out my door and live in West Virginia. I don’t have to deal with the crime, traffic, etc.”
Smith, father of three daughters and six grandchildren, is 52 years old and beginning to look toward retirement.
When asked what he’d like to do when he retires, Smith replied: “I think I’d like to be a snowbird. I love this area nine months out of the year, the other three, hmmm… not so much!”
With Smith’s record of frequently donating to many worthy local causes, let’s hope retirement is still a good time away.