Photo Gallery | Interprint in Pittsfield
PITTSFIELD — At Interprint Inc., people push the envelope with the potential of paper.
When Lenox resident William M. Hines Sr. became CEO of this North American subsidiary of a German-headquartered global firm in 1985, he played an integral role in moving the firm's operations from Baltimore to the Berkshires.
"He knew there was an inborn appreciation of paper here, and an inherent understanding of its intricacies," said Peter Stasiowski, Interprint's Director of Communications and Human Resources.
While many county residents, past and present, have had experience working in the gritty, steamy pulp-to-product paper mills that settled along the river banks of the Berkshires, Interprint's 150 employees today find themselves working in a more evolved environment.
Situated on 78-acre property along Route 41, near Hancock Shaker Village, Interprint's 136,000-square-foot facility is where printing presses meet laser engravers, and uniformed mechanical laborers and ink mixers work alongside graphic designers and product sales executives.
Interprint manufactures precision printing on paper and film for the decorative surfaces industry. These specialty papers and films are used to create the surfaces on panels that are processed into furniture and flooring and for other uses for interior finishing. The company's on-site services include full design, reprographics and laser engraving.
Interprint imports thousands of tons worth of base papers on giant rolls and special inks. The company ships around 7,000 tons of paper annually — "enough to wrap around the Earth's equator more than two times," Stasiowski said. That paper is printed with custom designs made to look like wood, stone or in other prints inspired by nature.
For example, if a customer likes the look of a certain marble or leaf pattern or a cut of wood, Interprint specialists will use commercial scanners to digitally scan a sample of that raw material, then analyze and breakdown the composite into a graphic. Inks are custom mixed. Printing is done in layers to achieve the most authentic looking finish on paper.
In the scanning room, larger beams of wood and shelves of objects are stored. Sections of the factory floor look like an artist's studio, with dozens of samples of paper and ink hung on work stations for review.
The finished rolls of specialty papers are then sent to clients like Pergo, Formica, Armstrong and Wilsonart, which use them to create their home and commercial products, be it flooring, countertops, wall screens and more.
According to market research by The Freedonia Group, decorative laminates is a growth industry.
"U.S. demand for decorative laminates is forecast to rise 4.1 percent yearly to 11.9 billion square feet in 2018, a continuation of the improvements between 2011 and 2013 after the declines from 2007 to 2010," states a recent report. The same group also estimates that the global demand for decorative laminates is expected to rise 5.6 percent per year to 10.7 billion square meters of materials produced in 2018 and valued at $40.8 billion.
The greatest part of Interprint's North American business is done with clients in Canada. But interest in decorative laminate products in the U.S. is growing, Stasiowski said. The company currently does about $60 million in sales, he said.
In the Berkshires, Interprint's biggest impact comes through its service as an employer and as a deeply engaged corporate citizen.
Over the course of its first two years in the Berkshires, the company went from operating marketing offices in a 500-square-foot space in Lenox to leasing a 25,000-square-foot facility to house its own printing operation at 125 Pecks Road in Pittsfield. A national search was launched for a printing plant site, but that year Hines Sr. told The Eagle, "Pittsfield was suitable for our needs."
In 1989, Interprint's parent company in Germany funded the installation of a $2 million printing press. After that investment, Interprint planned more than double its workforce of 16 employees over the following five years. Interprint's production plant, even in that time, was seen as a promising boon for the Berkshire employment and tax bases.
Over the years, Hines Sr. and other members of Interprint's management team became active in local chambers of commerce and economic development agencies and initiatives in Massachusetts and the New England region.
Simultaneously, Interprint's footprint and operations were expanded at the Pecks Road facility, and more printing presses were installed.
In May 2004, the company was given the greenlight to begin building a new production facility at 101 Central Berkshire Boulevard (Route 41). That $27 million venture was completed in 2006.
The project did hit a significant snag in 2007 when the state Department of Environmental Protection found Interprint was not in compliance with the industry's accepted emissions standards. Interprint reached a $385,000 settlement with the U.S. EPA.
But since then, Interprint has put forth a number of clean environment and energy efforts of its own volition, from using more environmentally friendly materials to investing $4 million last year in solar and efficient energy upgrades.
The company most recently expanded in 2008 by adding 18,000 square feet to its current workspace. The $7 million project created space to house new laser engraving equipment, a process that was previously done in Springfield.
"We can do everything now in house at a cost savings," Stasiowski said.
Faculty at Taconic High School, and other vocational and career-training schools, look to Interprint as a trendsetter, often consulting with employees and managers on how to develop high school curriculum so that students are better prepared for the workforce.
"We have a great relationship with Interprint, which has also come through with funding in areas that aren't in our budget," Taconic Principal John Vosburgh said.
Stasiowski said Interprint hires most of its employees locally. He said it's important for the company to have a well-trained engaged workforce.
"Interprint is not a spectator sport," he said.
Contact Jenn Smith at 413-496-6239.