A Charlotte Turnaround Tale
After working at several in-plants in his career, Alvin Griffin has made his mark by fixing the faltering in-plant at Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools.July 2010 By Chris Bauer
AS ALVIN B. Griffin sees it, he couldn't have landed in a more ideal place than Charlotte, N.C. The Manassas, Va., native and his family moved to North Carolina in 1992, when his wife was transferred there for a job with IBM.
Griffin, an in-plant veteran and current director of the Graphic Production Center for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, found the area to be a great place to raise his two children, pursue his love of riding motorcycles, and take on the challenge of turning around troubled in-house printing facilities.
His interest in printing dates back to high school, where Griffin took a communications class that taught printing, silk screening, electronics and drafting. He enrolled in advanced printing classes in 11th and 12th grade, and recalls catching a fortunate break upon graduation, when the Prince William County, Va., school board decided to open its own in-plant.
"My teacher got a call saying they were looking for his best student," Griffin says. "From there I got a phone call and we opened up Prince William School Board's shop together in 1976. I came out of high school and had my feet right in the fire."
Griffin points out that he learned more about printing in his first few months on the job than he did the entire time he was in high school. The shop was set up in a space shared with the school district's bus garage. It was so hot they had to run the air conditioning year round. Griffin got the in-plant started with old Multi 1250 presses, and stayed there for five years before moving across town to work for Prince William County's government print shop.
Upon his arrival in North Carolina, Griffin spent a few months doing special projects for local commercial printers. For someone with an in-plant background, this was quite a change.
"I realized in a hurry that it was not for me," Griffin notes.
It wasn't long before Griffin hooked on at the in-plant for Winthrop University in South Carolina, where he stayed for seven years. He then heard of an opening at the in-plant for Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, which was on the verge of closing after the manager there passed away and the shop went without management for about six months.
"I came here knowing that I had a year to straighten things out or it was going to fold," Griffin contends. "The place was a mess, and I don't mind saying that."