Allegra First Printer Approved By DEQ Program

April 11, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Manufacturing for a commercial printer doesn’t get much leaner, or greener, than this.

Allegra Print & Imaging of Grand Rapids became the first printer in Michigan to have a project approved by the state that will make the firm’s operation more efficient, and, at the same time, keep a goodly amount of chemicals, metal plates and film from ever going to the landfill.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality recently approved Allegra’s request for a $38,932 loan to buy a computer-to-plate imaging system to replace some of the company’s conventional printing equipment.

The state agency granted the loan, which has an interest rate lower than what the market offers, through the Small Business Pollution Prevention Loan Program.

“We hope that more printers will take advantage of the low-interest loan rates and cost savings that the Small Business Pollution Prevention Loan Program offers,” said DEQ Director Russell Harding after awarding Allegra the loan.

Allegra CFO Craig Vetter told the Business Journal that the new imaging system will save the firm about $10,000 annually in operating costs. Being able to go directly from computer to plate — the imaging plate that goes on the printing press — means the company won’t have to buy 280 gallons of chemicals, along with a large quantity of metal plates and film, each year.

On top of that, Allegra will have less manufacturing waste to dispose of.

How does it work? Well, the imaging system means that Allegra won’t have to burn negatives in order to create a plate, and the new plates won’t be made of metal.

“What this direct-to-plate technology does is it eliminates the need for the negatives. It eliminates the need for metal plates. It basically goes directly from the computer onto plate material, which is no longer metal; it’s more like a poly-type material,” said Vetter. “So it eliminates all the negative materials and the plate materials.”

As a company, Allegra has practiced green manufacturing. The firm has been a member of the Michigan Great Printers Program since 1999, a state project that supports commercial printers with technical assistance and one that promotes pollution-prevention practices. The program’s goal is to reduce the amount of waste and the use of chemicals in the printing process, something Allegra will do with its new system.

“The pollution from the negative material, the pollution from the metal-plate material itself, and also the chemicals related to that process will be reduced,” said Vetter. “I believe more and more printers will be going to this technology because it’s more efficient, too.

“We’re eliminating two steps from the process because the system we’re getting is almost similar to a high-tech printer. From your computer, you send it to the printer. Well, with this, from the computer we send it to plate maker, which will produce the plate right then. It eliminates two steps from the process, which makes us more efficient,” he added.

Vetter said Allegra will have the new imaging system up and running by the end of the month.

The loan program is part of the Clean Michigan Initiative, a $675 million environmental bond proposed by Gov. John Engler and approved by voters in 1998. The loans are funded by a firm’s local bank in tandem with the DEQ Clean Michigan Initiative fund. Founders Trust Personal Bank participated with Allegra in the loan.

Businesses with fewer than 100 employees can apply for up to $100,000 in a low-interest loan for a project. Proposals that eliminate or reduce waste, reuse materials, or recycle are considered for funding.

It takes a bit longer to get funded through the program than it does by going directly through a lender. But as Vetter noted, the result is well worth the wait.

“Had we not gone through the state we would have had (the system) by now,” said Vetter. “But the interest rate was so advantageous that we wanted to take advantage of it.”

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