Quad/Graphics cemented its status today as the General Sherman of the printing industry with the announced closing of its last big Mid-South plant, in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
Quad's rapid downsizing following its purchase of Worldcolor less than two years ago has done for the South's printing industry what the Union general did for Georgia agriculture.
"At one time, the former Quebecor’s Mid-South facilities employed more than 3,000 workers at plants in Memphis, Olive Branch, Miss., Corinth, Miss., Jonesboro, Covington, Tenn., and Dyersburg, Tenn.," Memphis Business Journal noted today. Employees say the Wisconsin company recently shut down the bindery at another former Quebecor/Worldcolor plant, in Franklin, Kentucky.
"So, ALL the Tennessee plants will be closed, ALL the Mississippi plants will be closed, They are starting on ALL the Kentucky plants now........ Looks like a pattern to me," one Tennessean commented on a Topix.com forum.
"Looks like the Second War of Northern aggression if you ask me, to arms," responded a Kentuckian.
Only a few decades ago, U.S. printing companies were shifting work from the Midwest to new plants in lower-wage, less union-friendly locations across the Ohio River. But Quad has actually reversed the pattern the past two years, shifting work and employees from the South to Yankee territory, especially the Midwest. Quad still has Southern plants -- in Georgia, Texas, and Virginia.
With its emphasis on employee ownership, generous benefits, and rah-rah culture, Quad has been able to avoid unionization even in union-friendly states. The Worldcolor purchase brought many unionized plants into the company, but Quad's aggressive post-acqusition downsizing has fallen especially hard on those plants and in fact on ex-Worldcolor plants in general.
Only two of the dozen plants Quad has closed since the acquisition had not been Worldcolor operations, and both of those had only been part of Quad for a few years.
The company's long-standing practice of investing heavily in new equipment and technology has helped make the legacy-Quad plants nearly immune from the cutbacks. Quad sometimes replaced presses that were far from obsolete with new ones that were faster and more efficient. Worldcolor/Quebecor, however, was known for trying to stretch out the useful life of its equipment to minimize equipment purchases.