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These Pros Are Cons

December 1999


North Carolina Correction Enterprise Print Plant/Central Duplicating

Raleigh, N.C.

Annual sales: $7 million

Full-time employees: 186

Jobs printed per year: 13,500

Robert Leon runs an extremely professional, profitable in-plant. Comprising a large offset operation and a separate duplicating facility, his in-plant generates $7 million in annual sales and employs 186 people.

But his operation is different from other in-plants in one key way: Nearly all of his employees are prison inmates.

Leon is director of printing at North Carolina Correction Enterprises. He oversees the offset print plant, located in Nashville, N.C., and a central duplicating center, in Raleigh. In its 60 years of existence, the in-plant has grown to become one of the country's largest.

Unlike many other prison in-plants, though, this one does not get by with ancient second-hand equipment. It has some of the latest, top-of-the-line gear, including two brand new Kodak DigiSource 9110 digital printers. In fact, between both operations, Leon says the in-plant has spent about $2 million on equipment over the past two to three years.

"We're receipt-supported, so we don't have any money appropriated to us from the legislature," Leon explains.

He even intends to expand. A new duplicating facility is planned for the winter of 2000, and Leon is trying to add a second shift in the print plant—a tough move in a prison, where inmates are on strict schedules. In the past five years, Leon says, the offset operation alone has grown from $2 million in annual sales to $4 million.

But how did a prison in-plant get to be so huge? Part of it, Leon explains, has to do with the great support he gets from the state.

"In this state, anything that we can do to put more inmates to work, most of the officials really want to see that happen," he explains. "They just think the more inmates working the better."

Additionally, Leon says, state officials like his in-plant because it saves taxpayers money by providing printing to tax-supported entities at a much lower price than outside vendors can offer. His customers include state government agencies, city and county governments, community colleges and state universities.

His shop's growth was also likely aided when the state closed its printing operation six years ago, bringing some new work his way. Plus, when the print plant was expanded five years ago, the shop gained the capacity to handle more work. That additional work is being solicited through the efforts of a salesperson who visits customers and drums up business. Leon is currently trying to add a similar salesperson to sell for central duplicating.
 

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