Mike and Becky White opened Ballinger Printing on September 9th, 1997. Steve Gray started working there the day they opened and would eventually purchase the business from the Whites, “I’ve been in the printing business since 1989 and I’ve seen a lot of change and a shift in the dynamics.” Gray is a Ballinger product, having graduated from Ballinger High School in 1991, who worked his way up through the printing business, “I was a press operator in the beginning.”
One aspect of the business that Gray is very careful about is the confidentiality. News travels fast in a town the size of Ballinger and Gray is cognizant of that fact and the tendency for rumors to spread like a west Texas wildfire, “Keeping confidentiality is a key to my business. Some people bring me stuff to be printed and I don’t read it, I just print it. A lot of what goes on in Ballinger comes through here in one way or another.” Gray values the trust that the people put in him when it comes to providing a top-notch product and protecting their confidentiality.
Printing, like every other type of business in the country, faces new challenges all of the time in the online retail era. There are thousands of online retailers to order products from and they make their money from quantity so many of them are able to sell products at a cheaper price but they don’t give that personal experience that you receive with a local business. Their customer service is a person on the other end of a phone after you’ve been on hold for 15 minutes. With Ballinger Printing and other local businesses, customer service is actually having a face-to-face conversation with the owner of the business.
This doesn’t mean that local companies, like Ballinger Printing, don’t keep up with the times. Gray says that it takes a deft hand to deal with the changes, “You have to balance between equipment cost and the market. For example, I bought an envelope printer and it’s been one of the best pieces of equipment that I’ve ever bought. I can print envelopes 6 times faster than I previously could but it cost me $16,000. I’m also looking into purchasing another piece of equipment that will expand our capabilities and what we can offer. It will cost us around $16,000 as well.” The new piece of equipment is a machine for garment printing, “I’m not trying to take market away. Print-to-garment is different part of the screen-printing market. It’s a part that the other areas don’t cover.”
One reason for the purchasing of new equipment is to cut down on work that is outsourced to cities like San Angelo, “We job out a lot of our work to San Angelo and that’s ridiculous because we need to keep Ballinger money here in Ballinger. Sales tax is important to us because it goes to repair our roads and other infrastructure. I want to give people a venue to get things done here.”
Gray also works with other local businesses, such as The Treadmill and Cason’s Mercantile, “I’ve known Jodie at the Treadmill since I was 3 years old. It’s a small area so we have to work together. The Treadmill and Cason’s does embroidery and some other work from time to time.”
Ballinger Printing also prints books, “I’ve printed 14 different books in the last 4 months. A lot of the books are history books. We’re about to reprint the history books in Mason County.”
Gray also gives back to the community in the form of donations to charitable events around the area, including many of the fall festivals every year. In addition to the myriad of printing services he offers, Gray has the capability to print any size banners, “I’ve printed 15’x15’ banners.”
Using local businesses does keep money here in the community, not just with support of the business but also by the sales tax that goes to the city. While more and more mom-and-pop businesses seem to be shuttering their doors in the age of online shopping, Ballinger Printing is still investing money by purchasing equipment to increase the services that they offer.