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North Omaha printing company can't be duplicated
[August 22, 2008]

North Omaha printing company can't be duplicated

(Omaha World-Herald (NE) (KRT) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 22--Eugene Peter, known at Interstate Printing as "Mr. Gene," has parked his Ferrari of a printing press inside the building his family has owned on North 16th Street for 52 years.

Mr. Gene is not the flashy type, as evidenced by the 6-year-old Buick he drives and Interstate's Brady Bunch-era wood-paneled office decor, which can't fully muffle the thump-thump of presses in the back.

Yet the 83-year-old agreed to shell out close to $3 million this year for an eight-color Komori LS-840 Perfector/Coater. That's printer-ese for a state-of-the-art machine that can print color on both sides of the sheet at a speed of 15,000 sheets per hour.

It's the latest investment his company has made in both machine and location. These are factors that Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey, city officials and Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce leaders will herald at 10 a.m. today at a "reinvestment celebration" at the plant at 2002 N. 16th St.

"A lot of business people don't realize this is a great place," Peter said. "We hope to be here for a long, long time."

That's the kind of plug the city has made for years and the chamber, with its north Omaha redevelopment push, has recently begun to sell. Omaha and chamber officials are marketing north Omaha as a business-friendly place in hopes of luring private investment.

The same reasons that drove Peter's German immigrant father, Valentine J. Peter, to move the business to North 16th Street in 1956 are present today: proximity to downtown clients, a short drive to the airport and room to grow.

Interstate's property extends two blocks west and includes a nearly 45,000-square-foot plant of concrete-block, add-on workrooms. A concrete-block wall rings a 60-space parking lot that eventually would be enclosed as the company grows.

And Interstate is growing as demand continues for brochures, credit-card statement inserts, hunting maps, catalogs and other printed products.

Interstate, which employs about 65 people, plans to add as many as 10 jobs over the next few years -- a pledge that was key to getting Nebraska Advantage tax incentives.

The incentives include a tax credit based on wages paid to newly hired workers, a sales tax rebate and a credit on capital investment that can be applied toward Interstate's Nebraska corporate tax liability.

Although a hyper-efficient machine like the new Komori would seem to eliminate positions, Interstate's managers say the opposite is true.

"Our goal is to have this run 24-7," said Jan De Roos, vice president of operations. De Roos said Interstate currently runs the Komori during one shift of two pressmen. A third employee is being trained, and De Roos said more employees would be added.

Like gearheads at a car show, Interstate's longtime workers marvel at the new purchase.

"This thing is literally like a spaceship," gushed De Roos, noting that nothing similar exists in the Midwest outside of St. Louis or Chicago.

"This is a Ferrari over here," said Steve Harris, manager of the pressroom department, who holds affection for the old presses that, while cumbersome, still churn out copies and even do a few extra tricks the Komori can't, such as folding.

Showing off one such hulk, a 1970s-era Harris M200 heat-set web press, Harris (the man) dubbed it "a good old Chevy. Good old dependable truck."

In addition to its presses, Interstate is home to a number of machines that bind and stitch together printed material. Interstate also stores and ships orders to national clients.

Interstate has come a long way since its beginning. Peter's father left Germany as a teenager and eventually landed in Omaha.

He acquired some German publications in 1907 and 1911; his Omaha Daily Tribune was the only German-language newspaper in Nebraska or Iowa at the time, according to the Peter family.

In 1917, the elder Peter founded Interstate Printing with his brother-in-law Ernie Reese.

The business, based at 13th and Howard Streets, had one small press.

Interstate grew, moving to its current quarters in 1956. So did the Peter family, with 12 children.

Eugene was the youngest. Because so many of the Peters became involved with Interstate, they were addressed by "Mister" and their first names.

Today, "Mr. Gene" is the only surviving son. The Rev. Val Peter, who served as head of Boys Town for years, is Mr. Gene's nephew.

Yet another Peter is at the helm of Interstate. Eileen Peter, daughter of Mr. Gene, serves as vice president of administration. She said the company is thrilled to expand and wouldn't think of moving.

"We've been here 52 years and we're proud of it," she said. "We're proud of north Omaha, and we want north Omaha to continue growing."

--Contact the writer: 444-1136,

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