Printers Set an Optimistic Example

By Lauren Hare

Barbara Baron, part of a family tradition at Admiral Communications. Photo: Lauren Hare.

On a cloudy June morning in New York City, humid with the promise of rain, the streets near Battery Park City are filled with extensive, ongoing construction. In the year and a half since the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, this neighborhood has changed irrevocably. The construction equipment and rerouted traffic are surface signs of ongoing repair, but the canyons of office buildings are still and solemn. How do the businesses inside these buildings feel about a future of repair?

"We're cautiously optimistic - we have to be," says company Vice President Barbara Baron, regarding the future of Admiral Communications (www.admiral47.com), a commercial printing plant located at 47 West Street - one block from the site of the Twin Towers. Admiral is owned by Arthur Baron, and his sister Barbara along with his son Josh help to manage the business. This family-run printing and mailing company was created over 50 years ago by Jack Baron, Arthur and Barbara's father.

With the company still feeling the aftereffects of September 11th, Ms. Baron states, "We are more committed than ever to rebuilding our business here in New York City."

Before September 11th, Admiral printed, bound, and shipped dozens of financial publications. Known for consistently quality work, the company was also distinguished as being the only complete binder in Lower Manhattan. Most of its clients were located in the World Financial Center or the Twin Towers, but these companies have moved away or are defunct.

Today, the printers cater to non-profit agencies, producing work that demands more detail but is not as profitable. Their entire staff, once a hardworking network of over 70 employees, today hovers around 40. For Admiral, the transition from an $8 million company to one that must cut expenses was instantaneous but profound.

September 11th, 2001: Admiral Communications is the building in the foreground with the green roof. Photo courtesy Admiral Communications.

Ms. Baron recounts that the morning of September 11th, an 8:30 a.m. production meeting was interrupted with the news of the first plane's impact. Most of Admiral's employees ran out into the street, just in time to see another plane fly overhead, bank to the left, and hit the second tower. Shortly afterwards, WTC 2 fell, and employees fled as debris covered the streets.

Admiral estimated the immediate damage from the attacks at more than $500,000. In the chaos, printing machines were abandoned with ink still in the presses; the ink then dried and rendered the presses inoperable. A foot of dust and debris covered much of the office and ruined reams of the company's paper supply. Additionally, "With no elebctricity or phones, we were forced to stay closed for 4 weeks," Ms. Baron recalls.

Not only did the company suffer loss of business and equipment, but of physical access. West Street, the neighborhood's main thoroughfare, was closed until May 2002. The Battery Park parking garage blocks access to Broadway and Rector Street still shuts down periodically. Also, a "No Standing" rule has been imposed on all non-police vehicles in the blocks surrounding Ground Zero. Ms. Baron shakes her head in exasperation as she explains: "[This parking ban] makes it just about impossible for us to load or unload supplies, mailings, printed publications - anything, really. We can't pull our truck up to the loading dock, and when we do, we get ticketed. That's how we're operating now - with tickets."

As Admiral struggled to operate with minimal resources, its financial situation became increasingly dire. The company is one block south of the "frozen zone" of buildings adjacent to Ground Zero, and therefore was denied much of the aid after September 11th. Retail businesses were the first to receive emergency fund assistance, in an effort to encourage the tourism Lower Manhattan so desperately needed. As aid money was distributed, most manufacturing companies were excluded from the assistance, due to non-matching Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes. For example, Admiral is registered under two codes: printing and mailing. These designations did not match the SIC codes denoted to receive aid; therefore, even though Admiral suffered great losses as a direct result of September 11th, the printers were ineligible for federal financial support.

Ms. Baron realized that something drastic would have to be done to save her family's company. "I spent about a year on the phone, writing letters, trying to secure some aid. Lobbying and searching for grants became, literally, a full-time job." She gestures to a four-inch thick folder on her desk, overflowing with the results of that search.

But by early winter that year, Admiral still had not received the financial assistance needed to recoup its losses. Ms. Baron tried a more direct approach: she contacted local news media, with an eloquent letter wherein she stated, "My family consists of three generations living, working, and contributing to the economy in New York City. We are the epitome of the American dream, growing a multi-million dollar business and providing jobs. But that dream is now on the verge of collapse. I feel strongly that the families of the victims who died deserve compensation first. But who is getting the millions allocated to small businesses? I hope the airing of our difficulties will bring attention to the plight of businesses in our area. Can you help us find a way out of this?" Relying on the city's goodwill towards the Ground Zero neighborhood, and driven by the history of a successful, family-run business, Admiral reached out for help.

The media responded in kind, and After Ms. Baron appeared on TV channel NY1 News to tell her company's story, assistance finally was offered. A member of the New York City Partnership, a network of business leaders dedicated to enhancing the economy of New York, saw the news segment and immediately offered Admiral a recoverable grant. That initial boost was just what the company needed to get back on its feet.

Despite the financial difficulties post-September 11th, Admiral is grateful to their printing colleagues for providing infrastructure support. During the rest of September, when there was no electricity available in Admiral's workplace, another New York-based graphics company offered temporary office space - i.e. desks, phones, and use of printing equipment. This generous offer allowed Admiral to rebuild networking contacts. Also, the Association for Graphic Communications, a tri-state coalition of graphic and printmaking businesses, provided Admiral with outsourcing work to boost business. The Barons and their employees are exceedingly thankful for those in the printing and graphics community who provided the crucial help they needed to regenerate business.

Ms. Baron and another Admiral employee, with a Heidelberg multi-color printer in the background. Photo: Lauren Hare.

Today, employees in the office and at the presses at Admiral are maintaining the quality of production that ensured the company's success for so many years. The devotion to her family's company is evident, and Ms. Baron is positive and engaging as she shares her company's "9/11 story." Although the 50,000 square feet of company loft space is now only half full, the perseverance of today's industrious employees sustains the workplace. Ms. Baron waves hello to a man and woman operating a complex binding and cutting device, and they grin amiably in return. In another room, machinists operate several large multi-color Heidleberg presses, which churn out freshly inked pages. However, it is the man in shirtsleeves operating a large paper-cutting board who stands out. Ms. Baron gestures towards him and says: "He's actually in customer service. But we need everyone to help." Unable to hear her words over the clamor of machines, he smiles and shrugs his shoulders in a friendly greeting.

As Admiral Communications grows beyond the horror that was September 11th, 2001, the company focuses on current strengths and not past losses. Despite a truncated staff and a new clientele, this small printing company soldiers on in the face of financial and infrastructure collapse. The shirtsleeved employee working a cutting machine is emblematic of Admiral's resiliency following a near-catastrophic event. Here is a company in Lower Manhattan that, when faced with a crisis, pooled resources from fellow printers and generous agencies and is now hopeful about the future.

Ms. Baron smiles and says, "It's a struggle, but what can you do, you know? I'm happy - lucky - to have a place to go at 8:30 each morning."



Search This Site The Web

Get a Search Engine For Your Web Site