The consolidation of newspaper printing by BH Media Group’s North Carolina affiliates has begun at a $10 million expansion of the Winston-Salem Journal’s production plant.
The Fifth Street facility near Business 40 has gained an additional press with the new 12,000-square-foot space.
The consolidation involves the News & Record of Greensboro, as well as newspapers in Morganton, Marion, Hickory, Statesville and Mooresville printed at the Hickory Daily Record. The plant eventually will take over printing for newspapers in Concord and in Rockingham County.
Frank Clayton, operations manager at the site, said the plant is expected to absorb full daily production of the Greensboro newspaper on Monday. He said the plant has printed several days of full daily press runs for training purposes.
“We will continue to print some commercial jobs in Greensboro for another week until we get the routine down, while inserting production will begin moving to the plant by Oct. 1,” Clayton said.
About that same time, the plant will take over production of the five western Piedmont newspapers.
Clayton said the plant’s workforce of about 100 could grow to 150 because of the expansion and consolidation.
Daniel Finnegan, publisher and executive editor of the News & Record, said the paper is “doing what we have to do to make sure the quality of the paper and the time people receive it are not compromised by this move.”
Finnegan said some of his newspaper’s press and production crew are making the move to Winston-Salem, though it wasn’t feasible for some of the part-time workers to do so.
Media General Inc., then the Journal’s parent company, opened a 142,000-square-foot plant on the 11-acre site in 1994. The new press has been assembled in a new building erected next to the existing structure.
BH Media, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, acquired the Journal and other Media General newspapers in 2012. BH Media bought the News & Record in 2013.
The new equipment includes both the press and the equipment needed to assemble the finished newspaper sections, said Alton Brown, publisher of the Journal and vice president of the N.C. region responsible for all BH Media properties in the state.
Brown said the expansion shows the commitment of the company to Winston-Salem, and noted the plant will be doing commercial printing that brings in revenue from outside the city.
Brown said it took about 15 tractor-trailer trucks to bring in the press and other equipment being installed.
Winston-Salem Councilman Derwin Montgomery, in whose East Ward the plant stands, said the expansion and investment are welcome.
“I think anytime we have an existing company making additional investment in their facilities it is good for the local economy,” Montgomery said.
Gayle Anderson, president and chief executive of the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce, said the plant expansion “obviously means jobs for the community and capital investment, which translates into revenue for the county and the city.”
“It shows we are a great place to do business.”
The contract for the plant expansion was handled by Davie Construction Co. in Davie County, with local companies hired to do subcontracting work, such as electrical installation and roofing.
The consolidation comes at a time when newspapers are struggling in the face of declining advertising revenue and changing readership habits.
Readers are increasingly using computers and smart phones to get their news, but those methods do not generate the same level of revenue that traditional print has.
In April, BH Media Group announced the elimination of 289 jobs, of which 108 were vacant. The Journal lost 14 staffers and the News & Record lost 36. Affected positions were in circulation, production and news.
While there’s a greater focus on digital media, BH Media has stressed the need to stabilize the print product as well.
Journal reporter Wesley Young contributed to this article.