The evolution of a Garden City envelope printer

zkyle@idahostatesman.comFebruary 19, 2014 

0219 bi smallbiz allied

Ken Bettinson, president of Allied Envelope Company located at 525 E. 42nd Street in Garden City keeps a stock of hundreds of styles and sizes of envelopes. The local company, established in 1977, sold 80 million units in 2013.

DARIN OSWALD — doswald@idahostatesman.com Buy Photo

The cartoon envelope on Allied Envelope Co.’s website knows it’s mundane. “I am only an envelope,” the toothy character says. “I am impersonal, dispassionate, neutral.”

But the envelope has more to say. Many of life’s precious and important documents — love letters, death notices, signed or canceled contracts — are delivered or kept in envelopes. That’s the envelope’s job.

Which makes business for Allied Envelope a little less mundane. The company was founded in 1977 by Mike and Anne Rogers, and they opened a second, smaller plant in Spokane in 1982.

Allied buys and prints on millions of envelopes a month. It also takes orders for letterheads, business cards, labels and other stationery products, as well as large orders for printing, warehousing and direct mailing. The company has grown to 18 employees from three.

President Ken Bettinson and Operations Manager Shari Kirby each have worked at the company for more than 25 years. They and their spouses bought the business in 2004 from the Rogerses. They’ve weathered the Great Recession and claims that the digital age would doom paper products.

Bettinson says the business remains profitable despite an increasingly challenging marketplace. He answered questions from Business Insider.

Q: I suspect most people take envelopes for granted. I do. What’s the process that goes into making Allied’s envelopes?

A: In most cases, we purchase commodity envelopes from various envelope manufacturers from across the country and then print them on our five printing presses. They are made by Halm Industries and have very unique features. We can reach print speeds of 60,000 envelopes per hour and also print two colors on both sides of an envelope in one pass through the press.

Q: How many envelopes did Allied make last year?

A: Approximately 80 million units.

Q: What are your revenues?

A: Not enough for me to retire yet.

Q: What other products do you offer?

A: We provide a full complement of printed business forms and stationery, mailing and shipping products, and also offer design services and online inventory management.

Q: How has the industry fared during the recession?

A: During the early stages of the recession, we experienced a decline and saw many businesses in our industry merge. Several shut their doors. Thankfully, we have stabilized and are starting to see increases in our overall business.

Q: How about the past 20 years?

A: Overall, the paper, printing and envelope industries have seen a decline not only due to economic conditions but also technological advancements, online marketing strategies and rising postal costs. That’s why Allied has diversified our product offerings in order to increase our value to customers.

Q: Your website talks about the eco-friendly aspects of the business. Why is that important to explain to customers?

A: We constantly battle with the “green” movement where environmentalist groups encourage you to stop using paper products in order to save trees. What the general public doesn’t realize is that trees are a sustainable and renewable resource, grown and produced for consumption like most commodity products. Paper products are also one of the most recycled and reused products in the country. I don’t think you can say the same for computer components.

Q: How has technology changed the envelope business?

A: Production quality and output. Newer equipment can now perform multiple functions, such as cutting, patching, perforating, gluing, printing, and do so at higher speeds than ever before. New developments in die cutting technology has greatly reduced the cost and manufacturing times for making special cutting dies. These advancements allow companies to control costs while improving quality and delivery times. Custom products that used to take three to four weeks to receive can now be delivered in two weeks or less.

Q: Are envelopes made by different companies dissimilar? Are Allied envelopes distinctive?

A: In this day and age, quality and competitive pricing are always a given. Although there are some subtle differences between manufacturers in paper and cutting dies, what separates Allied Envelope from the competition is our commitment to producing high-quality products with an unparalleled level of service. More than 60 percent of our staff has been with Allied for 10, 15 or more years. With that type of education and experience, we are able to offer our customers incredible workmanship, expertise and advice on how to handle their needs. We take pride in our craft, and it shows in all facets of our business.

Q: What’s the least fun part of your job?

A: Keeping up with the changing rules and regulations pertaining to tax law, health care and employment for multiple states. That is not a lot of fun.

Q: What’s the most fun part of your job?

A: The fact that every day is different. New challenges from our customers keep us sharp and give us opportunities to help them meet their critical deadlines. It’s also kind of fun to get on the press and print some envelopes every once in a while.

Zach Kyle: 377 6464, Twitter: @IDS_zachkyle

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