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The Springfield Post

Office took in $42 million last year with operating costs of $38 million

by Barbara Radford-Kapp

SBJ Contributing Writer

If only the Pony Express could see them now.

With 1.8 million pieces of mail to deliver each day, the Springfield Post Office has had to find increasingly more efficient processing methods. Bob Roberts, Springfield's postmaster, is here to see the post office has the right mix of people and technology to get the job done.

Roberts began his postal career working on the back dock of a St. Louis post office 38 years ago. Since then, he's held just about every job available in the Postal Service.

"The Postal Service has been extremely good to me, especially from an educational standpoint. It has subsidized my education and made it possible for me to pursue advanced studies in business and marketing at the University of Virginia, the University of Oklahoma, the University of Missouri and Harvard University," Roberts said.

As he worked his way up the postal ranks, Roberts served in post offices all over the United States. In 1987, he was promoted to management sectional-center postmaster in Corbin, Ky. While there, he was responsible for the post offices from Lexington to the Smoky Mountains.

Prior to coming to Springfield, Roberts was director of sales for a 10-state Midwest area. He worked with the nation's top 200 Postal Service accounts. That kind of experience landed Roberts a place in the Postal Service ambassador program.

In the past year, he's worked with Fortune 500 CEOs on expanding business opportunities through the Postal Service. "We've traveled to Germany and Australia this year to meet with the postal officials there and find out how to do business in their country," Roberts said.

According to Roberts, the U.S. Postal Service handles about 40 percent of the world's mail. "We have an international postal union and an international postmaster general. There are some places in the world where you cannot receive mail unless your postal carrier has an agreement with the government," he said.

"In that case, the U.S. Postal Service has a natural alliance with all the governments throughout the world," he added. In relationship with its own government, the U.S. Postal Service has moved away from relying on a tax-based budget.

Since 1985, all U.S. Postal Service revenue has come from customers. Still, Roberts said, the United States has the lowest postage rate in the international postal union, and profits continue to grow in Springfield.

"If we have a postage increase this year, it will only be a penny, which is still below the rate of inflation and just enough to offset higher costs and maintain universal service," he added.

Last year, the Springfield Post Office took in about $42 million, with operating costs of around $38 million. This year, Roberts projects an income of $44 million to $46 million, with $40 million in operating costs.

"We've been very fortunate here, and it requires a lot of good people to make those figures balance out. We try to be the carrier of choice for businesses in Springfield, but it is a very competitive market these days," he said.

That's why three years ago the Postal Service hired a vice president of technology, Robert Reisner, to help post offices across the country compete in the next century. "We're very committed to growing technologically, and every process we have is going to fall into that category," Roberts said.

Springfield's Main Post Office, located on Chestnut Expressway, is undergoing a 52,000-square-foot expansion. According to the project manager, Gene Bolin, the addition will house a robotic tray-handling system and a small-parcel-and-bundle mechanized sorter. "The additional equipment will help us reach our goal of automation. This is not new technology, but it's new to Springfield."

He said he expects the expansion to be complete in September 1998. The CMA architectural firm, out of Minneapolis, is working in partnership with local firm Hood Rich Architects on the design.

DeWitt & Associates is general contractor. "We were very pleased to get a local contractor. That doesn't always happen, but when we spend money, we like for the community to benefit from it," Bolin said.

DeWitt & Associates also served as contractor for the $4.9 million rehabilitation and expansion of the Griesemer Postal Facility at Bennett and Kansas Expressway. "We're developing a total metro plan to determine how we can meet the needs of this community in the years to come. Our customers tell us they want services in strip centers and malls, the places they go to shop," Roberts added.

That's why the Springfield post office recently opened a postal store in James River Towne Center, and Roberts said there is more to come.

Technology is sure to play a role in any metro plan, as well. Currently, the Postal Service is working on an arrangement with the banking industry to speed transaction time. Customers can now receive stamps by fax and meter parcels over the phone.

The Postal Service has also got its eye on the Internet and the growing use of e-mail. The Postal Service is working with Vice President Gore on developing an electronic postmark. Roberts said the Postal Service wants to develop a system that ensures consumers' transmissions will be sealed against inspection.

"The biggest challenge we have as Americans today is to make the electronic world of communication wholesome and good for our kids, and the Postal Service is intimately involved in making that so," Roberts said.

Robert W. Roberts

Springfield Postmaster

PHOTO CAPTION:

Bob Roberts has served in post offices all over the United States.

PHOTO CAPTION:

Springfield's postmaster oversees the delivery of 1.8 million pieces of mail a day. In 1997, the local office had revenue of $42 million. See the spotlight on page 10.[[In-content Ad]]

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