Palmitier Has Different View

August 8, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — Jeff Palmitier, president of Integra Printing, had a successful career in finance and never really envisioned joining his family’s printing business.

But when he transitioned from stockbroker and investment consultant to print shop owner 15 years ago, he helped transition Integra in the process.

Integra was founded in 1936 under another name. Palmitier’s father, Richard Palmitier, purchased half the company in 1970 when it had five employees and the bulk of its work was printing business forms. The senior Palmitier assumed full ownership of the company in 1985, and in the early 1990s, Jeff and brother Scott joined the firm. Scott is CFO and, like Jeff, a majority owner of Integra.

Since then, the Palmitiers have basically reinvented the company, transitioning it from a traditional print shop into a highly versatile communications company and “information distribution specialist.”

Today Integra uses a number of technologies to help businesses move information and coordinate all their digital assets. Sure, Integra still puts ink on paper, but what it really does is help people communicate, Palmitier said.

“We’re really in the information distribution business. We help people move information from here to there,” he said. “The people that we talk to in the industry who get around all of North America say there’s approximately a dozen companies today that can do what Integra can do in-house.”

Palmitier graduated from CentralMichiganUniversity with a degree in finance and for five years served as chief financial officer for Royal Securities stock brokerage in Grandville. He ran his own investment consulting firm, Palmitier Capital Management, for five years after that. Then he joined Integra.

“What happened is that Integra had started to grow, my dad was looking toward retirement, and he basically said if we’re going to do this we need to do it now,” he said.

Palmitier maintained his consulting practice for two years after joining Integra, then dissolved the practice to concentrate solely on the family business. He took on the title of Integra’s president in 2000.

When he started with the company it was pulling in $2.5 million in annual revenues. This year, Integra hopes to do between $17 million and $20 million worth of business. Over the past two years, Integra has invested some $12 million in equipment, technology and facilities and has been hiring a new full-time employee just about every six weeks. The company presently has 95 full-time employees and 15 to 20 temporary workers.

“Our corporate mantra is, ‘Our clients’ success equals Integra’s success.’ We try to stay focused on that every day in everything we do.”

Up until December 2004, Integra was operating out of a smaller facility on

Oak Industrial Drive
with a second facility in Walker. The Palmitiers built a new 166,000-square-foot headquarters at 2201 Oak Industrial Drive to consolidate operations and reserve space for future expansion. It’s just across the street from its former headquarters.

The industry has changed tremendously over the past 15 years, and Integra has tried to stay ahead of the curve. Over that time, nearly 50 percent of U.S. printing plants have disappeared, Palmitier pointed out, and the lithographic process of printing is a stagnant, if not shrinking, part of the industry.

“The Internet has drastically changed our business. It has changed the way people communicate and has had an effect on print. People can get the information in pre-print form and can print it as they need it.”

Three years ago the Integra team analyzed the industry and talked to customers to determine what the company had to do to become what its customers would need it to be in the future.

That’s when the Palmitiers decided to position Integra as a global communications and information distribution company and embarked on a five-year strategic plan. Subsequently, Integra programmers developed a suite of proprietary software to help businesses move information and coordinate digital assets like graphics and documents.

Today, clients send nearly 50 percent of Integra’s daily jobs through the Internet. More and more clients proof their jobs online and use the Internet as a means of collaborating, as well.

“If the designer is in Florida, the client is in California and we’re in Michigan and we all need to look at the same job at the same time, our Internet site allows us to do that,” Palmitier explained.

Unlike most printing companies, Integra has a line item in its annual budget for research and development. A lot of things Integra puts in place just haven’t been applied before, so there is a lot of testing involved, he said.

Integra put full-time programmers on staff because of the Internet’s tie-in with their clients’ businesses and accounting systems. Palmitier estimates 50 percent of his company’s sales revenue gets billed in some kind of electronic or consolidated format, whereas five years ago paper invoices were the norm.

The company also creates Web sites for clients so they can order what they need when they need it. General Motors, for instance, has to print 30,000 copies every year of its 500-plus-page policy and procedure manual for all its North American dealers. GM approached Integra about finding a better way to disseminate the information. Integra put all the information on a CD and combined it with digital printing so dealers could get the printed version off the Internet, too.

“We created an Internet-based tool so when changes need to be made, they can collaborate with people around the world to make the necessary edits on the manual,” Palmitier explained. “Since the main distribution was on CD, it saved General Motors hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Now GM has contracted with us to do the same for its dealers throughout world.”

According to Palmitier, a “print” company needs to have a lot more to offer clients these days. They want a company that can provide a whole range of services.

“They want you to distribute, to do things electronically, and to have customized programs,” he said. “More and more customers want a single provider that offers all of those services, and that’s what has been fueling Integra’s growth.”

While the company has reinvented itself as a global information delivery company, it’s still doing more traditional printing than ever before.

One of the five-year strategic goals the company set was to reach a 50-50 mix of print business and information delivery business. Right now the mix stands at about 80 percent print and 20 percent new technology and services. The company had hoped the mix would be more like 70 to 30 right now, but its printing business keeps growing.

“It’s one of those services in the whole range of services that clients want,” Palmitier said.

“What we’re becoming more and more is the resource that pulls everything together for clients.    

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