By: Jim Rosenberg
The Dallas Morning News broke ground today for its new packaging plant. The $50 million to be spent on land, improvements and equipment is one of parent company Belo’s largest capital investments in the city and one of the three largest projects undertaken in the last several years in the city’s southern sector.
The South Plant will sit on 50 acres in the Dallas Southport Center, at the corner of Interstates 20 and 45, providing convenient highway and rail access to support operations. Also, lying within Dallas’ only Enterprise Zone, it qualifies for city and county development incentives.
Publisher and CEO Jim Moroney said his company “made a very deliberate decision to make this major investment in Southern Dallas.”
The 133,000-square-foot South Plant will expand packaging capacity for the Sunday Morning News, which has outgrown its North Plant, in Plano. It will feature automated storage and retrieval to efficiently store advertising materials prior to packaging.
The facility will introduce collating and cart-loading equipment to package and distribute plastic-wrapped ad-supplement bundles for more than 640,000 Sunday edition subscribers and single-copy buyers. Only two other major metros — The Washington Post and Chicago Tribune — use the process.
The Morning News handles approximately three billion press sections and preprints annually. Besides reducing labor costs, Packaging Director Mary Khan told operations executives who gathered in Dallas last year, the change to collating was driven b increasing downtime and late runs owing to inserting equipment (some of it old) that is reaching capacity, concurrent daily and Sunday inserting, use of up to three insert jackets for holidays, many new editorial products and greater versioning.
In contrast to inserting freestanding ads, collating requires control of single sheets at high speed and shifting of wrapped content prior to sealing. Operators may require higher skill levels and managers may face more-difficult scheduling and machine configurations with large volumes.
But collected and protected preprints do please readers, advertisers and retailers. Advertisers can more precisely target readers, benefit from shorter deadlines and use materials in more sizes and shapes with collating.
The Morning News said technology used in the new plant will allow ads to be packaged according to each advertiser’s target readership — down to individual households.
With preliminary site preparation under way, construction is scheduled for completion early next year, when the Morning News will begin transitioning Sunday-edition packaging operations from Plano. Full operations are expected by mid-2007.
Construction will support approximately 450 jobs with contractors and subcontractors. When fully operational, the plant will add approximately 65 full-time jobs to south Dallas.
The Beck Group is planning and developing the project. The architect of record is The Austin Co., and the design architect is Good, Fulton & Farrell of Dallas. General contractor is Austin Commercial. Minority- and women-owned businesses so far account for 39% (almost $5 million) of construction costs. Such subcontractors have been awarded 100% of site preparation, concrete masonry completion, steel and erection services, mechanical systems, painting and carpet and flooring.
“So much land is available at this site” that future phases of the project could include expansion of the plant and its operations, Morning News Production Financial Analyst Doug Barlow told E&P earlier this year. “One day they could put in a press for the Dallas Morning News,” he said, adding that there had earlier been talk of moving subsidiary DFW Printing Co. (printer of USA Today, Financial Times and various weeklies) to the new site.