Brandon Watkins (front) and Dave Hammond (back left) check the run, Elijah Fortner (back right) makes adjustments. In 50 years, GGP has grown from one four-unit press into a full-service regional printer.
Greater Georgia Printers has printed every page of every Flagpole ever printed, and that’s only the last 32 years. Before that, they printed every page of every Athens Observer, except the first issue.
GGP started out 50 years ago as a co-op owned by several area weekly newspapers: the Oglethorpe Echo, the Greensboro Herald-Journal, the Madisonian, the Danielsville Monitor and the Comer News. In 1969, GGP was one guy with a four-unit press, and he printed the owners’ papers. That was just at the time newspapers were changing from “hot type,” the old Linotype machine, to “cold type,” set by computer-driven machines and printed by the new offset method that made it economically feasible for the papers to go in together and build a common printing plant. Up through 1975, they printed their own newspapers with the one pressman, who told the Observer when we inquired about printing our first issue that he didn’t think he needed any more business—a decision quickly overruled.
The Echo and Herald-Journal are still going strong, run by the sons of the owners who started GGP. The Madisonian, the Monitor and the News are no more, having been absorbed into other papers in their counties.
What began as the small printing co-op in an old brick storefront across the track from the depot in Crawford is now a full-service regional printing company in a modern 8,000-square-foot facility on 31 acres just west of Crawford on Highway 78, about 15 miles down the road from Athens.
Early on, GGP hired a new pressman, Bobby Miller, from the Wolfskin district in Oglethorpe County. Bobby not only knew how to run a press, he knew how to run a business. He brought in his brother, Kevin Miller, to manage production, and together they figured out how to grow the operation. Along the way, they added their sheet-fed division, Piedmont Impressions, for business cards, brochures, books, football programs and any other kind of non-newspaper printing, now even including yard signs and banners. Marion Montgomery grew up across the street from the old GGP plant. He used to hang around practicing his guitar chords while we were printing the Observer. Now, Marion heads up Piedmont Impressions and also is one of the best blues guitarists in this area. Bobby’s daughter, Nicole Hicks, who as a toddler played in front of the roaring printing press, manages the GGP office.
Greater Georgia Printers has never been afraid to invest in the latest equipment in order to grow and diversify its business. It quickly outgrew its new building when it moved into it, and it just kept on buying more and more sophisticated equipment, adding on to the building to house it, and hiring more skilled employees to run it.
As a consequence of all this energy and hard work, Greater Georgia can now do anything with printing—from the smallest business card to the largest banner, from newspapers to magazines, from yard signs to yearbooks; catalogs, political brochures, football programs, stationery, business forms, checks and books. (They printed Flagpole’s handsome collection of Pub Notes columns.) They deliver, and they do direct mail. They do it all.
I guess it’s because Bobby, Kevin, Marion, Nicole and all of them are local folks that they’ve been able to create this cutting-edge printing company with such personal service. Usually, dealing with a large, state-of-the-art company means giving up a lot of the personal touch. Not at Greater Georgia. If you encounter a problem, you just email or pick up the phone and talk directly with somebody like Steve Kelleher or Dave Kincaid, and they’re on it immediately; no sitting there listening to bad music while you wait for somebody in Calcutta to answer. Whether it’s Steve and Dave or the people who run the web presses or the four-color presses or the stitcher or the binder—they’re experts who know their jobs and know your job.
OK. Maybe this is enough to get us a discount on the next press run. Greater Georgia Printers has been a homegrown success story for 50 years in a tough and competitive business. They, too, have felt the fallout from the decline of newspapers and other printed products. Their diversification keeps them competitive, and their down-to-earth, friendly competence makes it a pleasure to do business with them. The next time you need something printed, check out Greater Georgia Printers at georgiaprinters.com. You will no doubt find them to be just your type.