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Wanda Franco, bindery specialist for Digital Print Ink, stuffs roughly 600 envelopes for a local client's direct mail order.
Wanda Franco, bindery specialist for Digital Print Ink, stuffs roughly 600 envelopes for a local client's direct mail order.

USPS opens sorting center discussions

Posted online
While the fate of mail processing operations in Springfield may be unknown for months, some in the business community believe a shutdown of select U.S. Postal Service sorting centers would harm local companies. This week, business owners will have a chance to voice their concerns at a 6:30 p.m. public meeting Jan. 4 at the Executive Conference Center, 910 W. Battlefield Road.

USPS officials plan to discuss the findings of a September study that found USPS would save more than $7.5 million a year if it consolidates the Springfield sorting center at 500 W. Chestnut Expressway with a Kansas City branch.

Digital Print Ink President Steve Counts said his business, which includes direct and bulk mail services, could lose up to $100,000, or roughly 20 percent of annual revenues, if local sorting operations are consolidated because mail would be shipped to Kansas City for processing, potentially delaying deliveries. While DPI’s direct mail services only represent between 5 percent and 10 percent of revenues, Counts said mailing jobs often include printing and design services. A loss in new direct mail projects could mean the elimination of other services often tied to that work, he said.

According to the USPS, first-class mail volume has declined by almost 23 billion pieces, or approximately 42 percent, between fiscal years 2001 and 2010. Overall mail volumes, according to USPS Mid-America District Spokesman Richard Watkins, are down 20 percent nationwide from a peak in 2006.

In response, the USPS said in September it would consider closing 252 mail processing centers – including Springfield and Cape Girardeau – and 3,600 low activity post offices in a plan to save $20 billion by 2015. Watkins said the reviews consider key factors such as transportation networks, mail volumes and plant sizes, and a nationwide switch to five-day service also is under consideration. Retail operations would continue at the West Chestnut Expressway branch, he said.

More than 250 workers are employed at the Springfield center, which would suffer a net loss of 57 positions upon closure by the USPS.

Counts said the rapport DPI’s associates have built with Springfield’s mail sorters is critical to his operations.

“They truly understand the needs of businesses,” he said, noting those who work with bulk mailers routinely are used to answering questions about meeting system requirements with new or unusual mail pieces. “Having to do all that remotely, whereas now we can do that face-to-face, is going to be a real challenge. Over the phone, we might make a mistake.”

In December, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., joined a group of senators asking the USPS to delay closing any post offices or area mail processing facilities through mid-May, allowing more time for Congress to “enact reforms necessary” to potentially save those facilities, according to

Watkins said it could take months for USPS officials to determine whether it would cease Springfield sorting operations, and no action would be taken until at least May 15.

Formal opposition
Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce officials have listed its opposition of a USPS closure among its 2012 federal legislative priorities, and President Jim Anderson said a chamber representative would speak at the Jan. 4 meeting.

Anderson already penned an Oct. 3 letter to Deputy Postmaster Gen. Ronald Stroman in Washington, D.C., expressing the organization’s concerns about the impact a Springfield closure could have on the city. According to Anderson, a reduction in force at the post office would mean millions of dollars in lost payroll.

Anderson said he’s recently fielded concerns by local businesses such as rural newspaper Ozarks Farm & Neighbor and Springfield Business Journal that changes in service could ultimately result in revenue losses.

Publisher Stan Coffman said Ozarks Farm & Neighbor mails to subscribers every three weeks, and based on his understanding of the proposed changes, he would lose a bulk-mail discount that amounts to thousands of dollars a year.

SBJ Publisher Jennifer Jackson said she has accepted an invitation from the chamber to speak against the changes at the Jan. 4 meeting.

According to the USPS, first class postage mailed within the city would take two to three days if processing operations here ceased. Counts said the first class rate is roughly twice the amount of bulk mail, and the extended time it could take for bulk mail addressed to Springfield residents to go to Kansas City and back may mean the difference between getting a job because many customers work on tight deadlines, he said.

“We would be losing a lot of control,” Counts said. “We have so much experience with the downtown office that we know if we give something to them, almost always, it goes out the next day. We have built that into our selling process. To give that up, it might make the difference between whether that customer does a direct mail or not.”

Nil effect?
Not all businesses, however, are concerned with the potential consolidation of Springfield’s processing center. Following USPS’ meeting announcement, Bass Pro Shops provided SBJ a statement on the potential impact on its catalogue business, which combined with its sale circulars has distribution of more than 100 million:

“We use both the Postal Service and FedEx to ship to our customers. We do not expect Postal Service cuts would cause any significant disruptions in getting our products into the hands of our customers. Most shipping orders come with a standard three- to six-day window for delivery and given our many years of experience, we know which service can best get it there in that time frame. Our customers who want their shipments faster are willing to pay a higher price.”

Stephen Burks, co-owner of MPower Marketing Solutions, said his company, which generates roughly 30 percent of its revenues from its 20 e-mail marketing clients, could benefit.

“I think anytime there’s a change like this … it can spur consumers into thinking about alternatives,” Burks said. “I think business would definitely increase.”

But Burks also works in the catalog outlet for PFI Western Wear. In that role, the changes are cause for concern.

“It’s complicated,” he said. “A lot of people rely on the Postal Service for delivery of goods.”[[In-content Ad]]


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