OP ED by William Gindlesperger, chairman and CEO, e-LYNXX Corporation
For 35 years our firm has represented many printers before the GPO. We are proud of our achievements.
GPO for its part has solicited bid competition among qualified printers through a fair rotation of its vendor list, through public posting and through the availability of its GPO Bid Subscription Service (GPO BSS). It was in 1982 that we negotiated with GPO the establishment of the GPO BSS in which GPO provides, at its cost, access to bid solicitations, results and other procurement information. It is the GPO BSS that we obtain, add value to, and provide to our clients. This has had positive results for the government, tax payers, GPO and the printing industry. It has allowed printers to bid on jobs for which they are qualified in a GPO controlled professional procurement environment.
We are particularly proud of the exclusive endorsement for our GPO related services that we have received from PIA. To our knowledge no other organization has ever received such an endorsement. Under that mantle we have worked tirelessly in our support of the GPO, its procurement initiatives and the printing industry who benefits mightily from professional GPO procurement.
PIA does a miraculous job of representing printers before government entities. The PIA Government Affairs Department is well respected on Capitol Hill and has made many influential friends going back to the first PIA Government Affairs Vice President, John Grant, his successor, Ben Cooper, and today, Lisbeth Lyons.
Unfortunately, many printers who are members of PIA do not understand the relationship between filling downtime with work won in a GPO competitive environment and improvement in their bottom lines. Many choose to allow their equipment to sit idle rather than lowering their prices to obtain filler work. The result is that when PIA surveys its membership regarding the most important government related issues members face, time after time after time, GPO concerns rank at the bottom of the list.
Perhaps this is the result of complacency among those printers who rely on GPO to stay alive. Perhaps this is the result of our natural instinct to let sleeping dogs lie. Or perhaps this is because PIA members have often looked to our firm for their GPO representation.
The truth is that printers – both PIA members and those that are not – are dependent on GPO for their livelihoods, yes, even those that do not want anything to do with the GPO. The reason, of course, is that GPO fills the holes in production schedules. Everyone from RR Donnelley to Joe’s Print Shoppe – all 10,000 printing companies that have registered to do GPO business look for the opportunity to improve profitability. In this down economy, which has been poison to the printing industry, GPO work looms large. It is the very lifeblood of thousands of printing companies. Without it, our printing industry would further deteriorate.
For example, if your competitor is filling its downtime with GPO work, and you are not, and that GPO work goes away, guess whose work your competitor will be going after to fill its now available downtime. That effects and hurts you whether you are doing GPO work directly or simply benefiting because your competitor is not chasing your accounts.
The real issue has to do with make or buy. How much printing will the GPO buy or how much will the GPO place in its already expanding in-plant operations? Mr. Boarman has testified that he intends to maintain the procurement operation. We believe he will. Mr. Boarman is a sophisticated and well referenced professional business person – even though his business has been unions. This does not make him a potentially bad candidate for the job of Public Printer. Prior Public Printers have also been supportive of the GPO in-plant production operation and of its unions and, yet, have done a wonderful job in boosting procurement initiatives.
OP ED by William Gindlesperger Page 2
Where the challenge lies is in a different place. This is a subject seldom discussed or clearly understood. It is waivers. Waivers are issued by the GPO and its governing body, the Congressional Joint Committee on Printing. These waivers allow federal executive agencies to handle their own printing in-house rather than to submit their printing to the GPO in compliance with the legal requirements of Title 44 of the U.S. Code.
The federal government is a multi-trillion dollar operation. Yet, only about 1 billion dollars total in printing is produced or procured by GPO. Estimates have been made over the years as to how many billions of dollars escape GPO. No one really knows, because no one has kept close control over waivers, or, for that matter, has a full list of all of the waivers granted. One estimate is that there are over 25,000 federal in-house printing plants doing upwards of $20 billion in printing. Think what GPO control over this printing could do for the federal government, the tax payers, the GPO, and, very importantly for all of us in the printing industry. If there is less than $100 billion in commercial printing available, add in $20 billion in federal work and bingo – tens of thousands of private sector printing jobs would be saved – enough perhaps for the White House to crow about.
If Mr. Boarman is confirmed and becomes the Public Printer, he will face a complex problem not of his making. The GPO, like the U.S. Postal Service, is losing big money. The difference is that the U.S. Postal Service falls under the Executive Branch and appropriations to underwrite its operational costs can be buried in a massive budget. The GPO, on the other hand, is a Congressional (not Executive) agency. Monies appropriated to underwrite GPO operational shortfalls are reflected as increasing costs of the Congress itself. Increasing Congressional costs is not a message Senators and Congressmen want to send to the voters back home.
So, where is Mr. Boarman going to look for cuts in costs? We guess it will not be through negotiation with GPO union employees for a reduction in labor rates. We believe Mr. Boarman will have only one bite at this apple. Everyone wins if he is successful in driving more work to fill downtime in the GPO in-plant production operation while, at the same time, dramatically increasing income from the GPO cash cow – called procurement. This new work is readily available through the cancellation of waivers. It also reduces Executive agency costs, while getting these agencies out of the printing business, which is not where they belong nor is it where their core competencies reside.
Mr. Boarman has a relationship with the White House and with the majority party in Congress. He is well positioned to get something done. I would urge my fellow printers, regardless of their political affiliation or union feelings, to support Mr. Boarman with the hope and understanding that Mr. Boarman will partner with the printing industry as he has partnered over many years with the unions, and by his serving as a bridge, we can together bring success to all involved.