BH Media will soon consolidate its North Carolina newspaper printing operations at the Winston-Salem Journal’s print facility on Fifth Street, where workers are installing an additional press in a 12,000-square-foot expansion of the plant that began in February.
The $10 million capital project should have its press up and running by the first part of September, said Frank Clayton, the operations manager at the site.
Clayton said there are about 100 workers at the Fifth Street production plant, and that the number could grow to about 150 because of the expansion and consolidation.
The Journal’s production plant opened in 1994 on an 11-acre site on Fifth Street, where a 142,000-square-foot plant was built by Media General, then the Journal’s parent company. The new press is being assembled in a new building erected next to the existing structure.
Winston-Salem Council Member Derwin Montgomery, in whose East Ward the plant stands, said the expansion and investment is 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, the president and chief executive of the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce, said local people were pleased to hear that BH Media is expanding in Winston-Salem.
“It obviously means jobs for the community and capital investment, which translates into revenue for the county and the city,” Anderson said. “It shows we are a great place to do business.”
The new equipment on site includes both the press and the equipment needed to assemble the finished newspaper sections, said Alton Brown, the publisher of the Journal, who is also vice president of the North Carolina region responsible for all BH Media properties in the state.
“I’m really excited about it,” Brown said, “It is a beautiful facility.”
Brown said the plant expansion shows the commitment of the company to Winston-Salem, and noted that 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.
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.
BH Media is consolidating the Hickory and Greensboro presses at the Winston-Salem location. Newspapers that will be printed with the new press include ones serving Morganton, Marion, Statesville, Hickory, Mooresville, Concord and Rockingham County.
The Greensboro News & Record will be published in Winston-Salem as well, likely on the existing press that the Journal uses, Clayton said. Copies of the News & Record will be taken to Greensboro for distribution.
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 did.
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 newsrooms.
While there’s a greater focus on digital media, BH Media has stressed the need to stabilize the print product as well.
Daniel Finnegan, the 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 the press and production crew at the News & Record are making the move to Winston-Salem, though it wasn’t feasible for some of the part-time workers to do so.
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.