Free Press invests $10 million in new presses ‘This is a major vote of confidence in our future’
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As it marks its 150th anniversary this year, the Free Press Tuesday signaled its commitment to the future with the announcement that it is investing $10 million in new presses and mail room equipment.
FP Newspapers Inc., which owns the Winnipeg Free Press, Brandon Sun and several community newspapers in Manitoba, is acquiring the assets — a KBA Commander CT Press System and Ferag mailroom equipment — from a production facility in New Jersey where these presses had printed the New York Daily News.
“This is a major vote of confidence in our future,” said Bob Silver, chairman of FP Newspapers. “It will position us to print our newspapers at lower costs and to grow our commercial business as a Manitoba-based printer of high-quality publications.”
Mike Power, the newly appointed president and CEO of FP Newspapers Inc., said this strategic investment sends an important message.
“It’a good story for the community, for our subscribers and for our employees,” Power said. “We see this as an opportunity and we are making a statement by doing it.”
The 300-foot-long press unit will take a number of months to dissemble, transport and re-assemble in Winnipeg. The equipment is expected to be operational in 2023.
When the new press is up and running it will allow for many more colour positions in the printing of the Winnipeg Free Press and will allow the company to compete for much more commercial printing work than had been the case in the past.
“This is a major vote of confidence in our future.” – Bob Silver, chairman of FP Newspapers
“This is a significant upgrade,” Power said. “It will enable us to do a lot more including having more colour in the paper, provide a bunch of operational efficiencies and allow us to pursue commercial work that we could not do with the current presses.”
While the purchase means the company will be taking on more debt in an industry that is not known for rapid growth, FP Newspapers Inc. chief financial officer, Ryan Kolaski said there is a good business case for the decision.
“These presses allow flexibility and cost-savings related to operation which helps pay for and fund the press itself,” Kolaski said.
As well, additional revenue-generating opportunities in the commercial printing field are real.
“We have the opportunity to take on more commercial printing but we have not had the capacity,” he said. “A lot of the bigger players like Transcontinental and others have pulled out of the province which has left the opportunity for us to go and take some of that business and bring it back in a made-in-Manitoba solution.”
The purchase will be financed in part from an amended credit facility with HSBC, which holds the company’s long-term debt.
Free Press editor, Paul Samyn, said there are not many other metropolitan dailies in North America investing in production like this.
“Any time a newspaper in this day and age is investing in new technology to better serve its audience is a good day for journalism,” said Samyn. “For a long time, people have wondered about how long newspapers will last. In our 150th year the Free Press is answering the question with an exclamation mark.”
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.