W.D. Hoard & Sons Co. President Brian Knox announced Tuesday that the Fort Atkinson company will merge its heatset web printing operation with Sun Prairie-based Royle Printing Co.

The move, effective in early December, will end Hoard’s 132 years of printing in Fort Atkinson plants and affect 34 jobs.

Hoard’s publishing operations – including the Daily Jefferson County Union and Hoard’s Dairyman magazine – and the Hoard’s Dairyman Farm are not part of the merger.

The management teams from both companies met with Hoard Printing Division employees Tuesday afternoon to discuss job opportunities with Royle and the timing of the merger, which they said will enable Hoard customers to take advantage of Royle’s larger manufacturing platform.

“Although we have spent large amounts of money upgrading our press facilities over the last couple years, we find ourselves at an awkward size in a rapidly consolidating and changing industry,” Knox said.

“We felt it was in our best interest to partner with a company that is positioned for the future and has the size to handle the rapidly accelerating regulations from Washington.”

Knox said the merger will also allow W.D. Hoard & Sons to focus on its main business: the publication and distribution of magazines, and local and regional newspapers.

“We’re confident this merger will best serve our print customers, while allowing us to focus on our core business,” Knox said.

Chris Carpenter, owner and president of Royle Printing Co., said he, too, is excited about the merger.

“We are delighted to have the W.D. Hoard print operations become part of Royle Printing,” the Cambridge native said. “Hoard Printing has a good reputation and has worked hard to sustain the relationships they share with their customers. I’m confident the combined entity will do a great job of fulfilling the needs of customers, while providing employment opportunities for a number of Hoard associates.”

The merger affects 34 full- and part-time employees in Hoard’s prepress, pressroom, finishing and fulfillment, sales and estimating, and customer service departments. Hoard’s plant 2, a 37,000-square-foot press facility at 28 Edward St., Fort Atkinson, will be closed; parts of the main Milwaukee Avenue facility also will be affected.

While it is difficult to lose loyal employees and friends, Knox said, all will be offered job interviews with Royle, which currently is undergoing a large-capacity expansion. Those who remain employed by Hoard’s as of the closing date will receive a severance package.

“This was not an easy decision,” said Knox. “But we determined that this was the best way to serve our publishing customers and, frankly, the future of our print employees in the long run.”

He noted that W.D. Hoard & Sons is fortunate to have a printing company of Royle’s high caliber so close by.

Carpenter, meanwhile, said the merger is expected to expand Royle’s workforce of 200 associates by more than 10 percent. He added that he foresees a smooth transition for both companies, as well as for customers.

“As Brian pointed out, the printing industry is an evolving field. You need to have a certain scale, vision and appetite to succeed … it’s a tough business,” Carpenter noted. “With that said, through making sound strategic investments in our workforce and operations, we’ve managed to stay on track, experiencing modest growth in recent years.

“One of our biggest challenges is people; we need more good people to join our industry and team. This opportunity with W.D. Hoard will hopefully help us with this need.”

W.D. Hoard & Sons’ relationship with Royle actually dates back more than 20 years when it purchased the Sun Prairie Star, Waterloo Courier and Deerfield Independent newspapers from the Sun Prairie company. Today, those papers are part of Hoard’s Hometown News Limited Partnership, which operates 12 weekly paid-circulation newspapers (including The Herald-Independent), three shoppers and various magazines and specialty publications in Jefferson, Dane and Columbia counties, along with 13 websites.

The Royle merger marks the second time in two years that W.D. Hoard & Sons has had to make the difficult decision to stop the presses.

In February 2014, the Daily Jefferson County Union contracted out its printing and inserting operations to Bliss Communications in Janesville. Joining a trend among area newspapers, the company made the move not only to reduce yearly expenses, but also allow greater versatility with color printing and advertising inserts.

Bliss Communications also prints the Union Extra and Hometown News’ publications.

The Daily Union news, advertising, circulation and pre-press production departments, as well as the Hometown News circulation department, remain at 28 W. Milwaukee Ave. in Fort Atkinson.

After the Royle merger is complete, the downtown Fort Atkinson plant built in 1908 will continue to house those Daily Union and Hometown News employees, along with the editorial, advertising, circulation and online staffs of Hoard’s Dairyman and Hay & Forage Grower, and the company’s administrative, accounting and maintenance departments.

Founded in 1870 by William Dempster Hoard, the Daily Union began as a four-page weekly in Lake Mills and moved to Fort Atkinson in 1873 at the prompting of local businessmen.

Hoard did not have sufficient funds to launch his own printing plant early on, so the Union was printed at the Watertown Republican those first three years. When he moved to Fort Atkinson, Hoard turned to Emma Brown, who was printing the Wisconsin Chief, a temperance newspaper located at the corner of West Milwaukee Avenue and South Main Street. In 1883, Hoard bought his own printing plant at the corner of South Main and South Third streets.

Two years later, Hoard expanded the Union’s popular dairy page into Hoard’s Dairyman magazine. W.D. Hoard & Sons continues to publish that international magazine, along with Hay & Forage Grower magazine, which it acquired earlier this year.

In addition, the company maintains the Hoard’s Dairyman Farm, home of the oldest registered Guernsey herd in the world. It is located just north of Fort Atkinson along Highway 89.

Royle Printing, founded in 1948, is a privately held print and distribution company that specializes in the production and distribution of magazines, catalogs and corporate collateral.

The company employs about 200 employees in its 250,000-square-foot facility in Sun Prairie.

In May, Royle announced a $6 million investment that Carpenter said includes a new Goss Sunday 2000 web press that utilizes the latest technical advancements available in the industry, providing Royle with a number of key production enhancements. It also will help the company in fulfilling its commitment to the environment, minimizing waste and energy consumption.

In addition, Royle has added a new, late-model Polywrapper for assembly and labeling.

“This latest investment is a continuation of our ongoing commitment to provide our customers with a modern and feature-rich operating platform,” said Carpenter. “The new press will help us serve our publication and catalog customers with efficient page counts, a variety of formats, and various productivity enhancements to remain highly competitive in a fragmented market.”

Royle has a national customer base while also working with Wisconsin-based companies such as Lands’ End, In Business Magazine, Nasco, Standard Process Inc. and many others.

Carpenter noted that Royle has been recognized as a “Best Workplace in America” by Printing Industries of America for 12 of the past 15 years, demonstrating its commitment to Royle associates and the company culture.

In addition, Royle Printing is ranked as the 99th largest company in Dane County.

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development’ announced that its Dislocated Worker Program is available to provide transition assistance to Hoard Printing Division workers affected by permanent worker layoffs. Services include pre-layoff workshops on topics such as resume writing and interviewing, job search strategies, and budgeting provision of information about programs and resources through written materials and information sessions on career and resource fairs.

Workers affected by permanent layoff also may access basic re-employment services at no charge through the state's Job Centers. Some services, including training assistance, might be an option for some workers after enrolling in one or more of DWD's workforce development programs.

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