Hooksett printing company won't fade away
Jack Cummings oversees the printing of hundreds of local, national and international publications. (RYAN O'CONNOR/Union Leader Correspondent)
"Right now, the future looks pretty bright," Cummings said. "It looked a little more glum, or grim, five or six years ago when everybody thought everything was going to be on their phone or their tablet, or their Kindle. But now statistics are showing the trend is actually going the other way, where people are saying 'Hey, I know I can read it on my Kindle, but I'd rather read a book,' or 'I know I can get it on my phone, but I'd just as soon (have it in hand).'"
The key to Cummings Printing's recent success, however, has been focusing on speciality and trade publications. While most consumers seek immediate news through the Internet, Cummings says his company rarely prints time-sensitive content.
And while the company produces hundreds of local and national publications, Cummings says his top profit source is waste paper. Instead of paying for disposal of thousands of pounds of recyclable waste, he has a machine that mulches all the scraps, which he then sells.
In addition, 70 percent of the Cummings workforce has been with the company more than 10 years, and 50 percent have been there for more than 15 years.
"When my dad passed away, I was going through some paperwork, and I found this one envelope, and in it was my great-grandfather's induction to the Civil War and discharge papers and all that. And there was a pay stub that had his name and as his occupation it said 'printer,'" Cummings said. "And my sons have worked here in the summer, so we're at at least five generations now."
The company grew and evolved steadily over the years, and, after a fire damaged the original building, the elder Cummings decided to move to a three-floor structure on West Central Street in Manchester, where he was better positioned to market to Massachusetts.
Four years after the big move, however, Cummings died and left the company to his son, John W. Cummings, who ran the company through an up-and-down period in the 1960s and '70s. In fact, Lew A. Cummings Co. Inc. nearly went bankrupt and skirted a union takeover during that time.
He said the company's equipment and methods had become "dangerously antiquated," and had neither the space nor finances to transition into the modern era of web printing, Cummings spent the next five years slowly updating the company's equipment and constructing a 65,000-square-foot-plant at the current location of Cummings Printing at 4 Peters Brook Drive.
Still, the upgrades made Cummings Printing competitive again, and as sales increased, so did the technology. The company streamlined its procedures by becoming ISO 9000 certified and using those methods to manage the suddenly thriving company.
"I'd like to see them diversify a little, maybe into packaging. There will always be packages, as long as there are products, and package printing is a growing and stable industry," he said. "(The future of the print industry) will always be a nervous question for us, so I'd like to see them get into other printing that can't go away, and let's face it, boxes, cartons, point-of-sale stuff, printing on plastics and medals and packing, that's not going anywhere.
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