Mayor's tour gives printer chance to press for lower taxes

Warwick Beacon ·

Kevin Martin didn’t have to think twice when Mayor Joseph Solomon asked what the city could be doing for him.

Martin is the owner of Image Printing, and Solomon was there Tuesday afternoon as part of his one-on-one weekly business visits to a Warwick business.

Martin had a one-word answer for Solomon: “Taxes.”

Image is one of the survivors in a dramatically changing business. Martin can recall having 10 competitors as recently as a decade ago. Now, it’s down to three. Recently, Colonial Printing closed, and it wasn’t all that long ago that Barrington Printing and United went out of business.

With offices bordering Route 95 on Plan Way, Martin said he is paying $26,000 a year in Warwick taxes.

Solomon, who remembers Martin when he opened his first print shop near Dunkin’ Donuts at Hoxsie Four Corners 23 years ago, said there are only two ways of reducing taxes – making government more efficient and increasing the tax base through business and residential growth.

“Those are the tools I’m working with,” he said.

As they talked and took a tour of Image, Martin, a car buff, expressed his disappointment in Warwick’s roads. He also took the mayor by surprise when he said he doesn’t bother bidding on city print jobs.

Also an aficionado of cars, Solomon understood why Martin had chosen to drive his pickup to work Tuesday rather than his Corvette. As for the roads, he pointed out that for the first time in many years, the budget has a well-funded road-repaving program ($5 million) and said he hopes to see the program sustained in years to come.

Martin said he’s seen some repaving, but many roads are still in tough shape.

“I think you need to see that,” he said.

While Martin said about 90 percent of his business is from within the state – and most of that with longstanding customers, including higher education institutions – he doesn’t bid on city jobs. He explained that city printing specifications are often reduced to a cost per thousand. For instance, he told Solomon the bid could be based on a cost per thousand based on a run of 100,000. That works if it’s a single job of a 100,000 run, but what the city is looking for is to apply that cost per thousand over multiple jobs. In that case, the printer has to make up multiple plates and the cost climbs exponentially.

“We end up losing money,” Martin said.

In addition, Martin pointed out, the city is soliciting bids from more than 100 printers across the country. He understands why, but notes many of those out-of-state printers can’t offer the kind of personal attention often required to address job changes.

Solomon said the city is always looking for the best deal for the taxpayers.

As for changes in the business, Martin said the evolution of technology has expedited the process and reduced waste. It has also resulted in a reduced staff and a demand for higher skilled employees.

Martin said his focus is directed on longer-run and higher-quality jobs. It’s been a successful ticket, as he noted this past year was among the best.

The tour of the Image plant found employees finishing a job on the $1.5 million Komri press. The highly automated press was in the process of being cleaned, but Martin asked for a sample run to demonstrate its speed. The press purred to life.

Karen Jedson, the city’s director of economic development and tourism, whisked to the end of the press.

“I want to literally follow the paper trail,” she said.

The press was just too fast to do that.