‘A once-in-a-generation thing’

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Friday, October 12, 2007
— It was the deadline of a lifetime.

Contractors in Janesville raced to build a 54,000-square-foot building while in Germany, workers raced to build a 185-ton printing press.

The two had to come together at the exact right moment.

It must have worked, because you’re holding the new Gazette in your hands right now.

Chuck Flynn, the Gazette’s vice president of technical services, didn’t hesitate when he took on the task of making the pieces of the new printing and distribution center come together.

“You don’t get a chance to build a building like this very often,” Flynn said.

He wasn’t in charge, he said, but was the “lighting rod” of the project.

A printing press isn’t something you buy every day, Flynn said, so choosing the right one took a lot of input from dozens of staff members and outside consultants.

The decision to buy the Koenig & Bauer Comet—the German company’s mid-sized press—was based on a combination of economics and technology.

The press came to Janesville in 27 semitrailer-sized containers. From Würzburg, Germany, the parts were shipped to Newark, N.J. The first two containers arrived by rail from Chicago on June 7. The rest came by truck, Flynn said.

The 27 pieces—for the most part—came to the new building in the order they were to be put together, Flynn said. Piece by piece, a team of seven German and four American contractors built the new press on its 1,650-square-foot concrete foundation. The foundation is 5 feet deep.

While the new press is the obvious centerpiece of the Gazette’s new printing and distribution plant, the reason for the project was actually the mailroom, Flynn said.

Or lack of it.

When the Gazette moved into its current digs at 1 S. Parker Drive in 1968, it failed to plan for the printed insert boom that took place in the 1970s, said Gazette President and CEO Skip Bliss.

“Newspapers around the country didn’t know what a pre-printed insert was,” Bliss said. “Since then, the volume has become unmanageable.”

That situation has been resolved with the new facility.

“The building is just an envelope for the press and the mailroom,” Flynn said.

But that envelope had to come together in time to meet this morning’s deadline. One threat was heavy rain in September and October of last year, Flynn said. General contractor J.P. Cullen & Sons responded by pulling out the mud and replacing it with gravel in order to keep working.

The project was pushed back a month by a delay of steel beams for the press hall roof.

“We couldn’t enclose the building without them,” Flynn said.

Cullen revised the construction schedule and worked on other parts of the building to keep the project in motion, he said.

Extreme temperatures in February also threatened to delay work, but 3.5 million BTU heaters kept things rolling.

Bliss said despite delays, he was confident the project would come together.

“There were times when you said, ‘Is this ever really going to happen?’” Bliss said. “This is a once-in-a-generation thing.”

Last updated: 10:17 am Friday, December 21, 2012

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