Printer Crafts 1 Million Inaugural Invitations

Workers at a New York printer are proud to make pieces of history.

December 30, 2008, 7:39 PM

Dec. 30, 2008— -- Inside a small, printing factory, the printers at Precise Continental in Brooklyn, N.Y., have been working around the clock.

They're under a deadline of historic proportions -- printing 1 million invitations for President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration.

Martin Diaz has worked at the company for 25 years, but he said he's never seen a project like this.

"I'm very proud," Diaz said. "I'm very proud of what I'm doing."

Along with his 65 co-workers, Diaz is etching, engraving and printing the Obama inaugural invitations.

Two weeks ago, the 26-year-old printing company got a call from the Presidential Inaugural Committee, telling them to get to work on the monumental task of printing 1 million invitations for the inauguration. The Obama team had looked for a shop that uses recycled paper and has a strong union, shop owner Jim Donnelly said.

"When the boss said we got it, I was ecstatic," Precise Continental worker Lovit Stokes said. "I went and told everybody."

The timing couldn't have been more perfect. A week before the call from the inaugural committee, Donnelly had announced that money was tight. With few orders coming in, he told workers to prepare for four-day work weeks.

"I was cautioning them about January that business didn't look good," Donnelly said, but now things are different.

"The average employee went home last Wednesday with two-and-a-half-weeks check because of all the overtime they put in," Donnelly said. "You can buy a lot of Christmas presents with that."

After learning that he'd goten the contract, Donnelly hurried to place orders for paper from Wisconsin and ink from Chicago.

"It feels great, not just what it's done for our company, but the paper company that made the paper, the envelope converter who made the envelopes, an ink supplier had to come in and make the ink," Donnelley said. "So, because of this order, a lot of companies had a better holiday season."

Proud Workers Make Piece of History

Since Harry Truman's 1949 inaugural, the printed invitations have had the same look -- gold and black engraving, topped with the traditional inauguration seal. This year, the paper is 100 percent post-consumer-waste paper, made with green energy and 100 percent chloride-free.

On the crème cardstock, the rolling black script reads, "The Presidential Inaugural Committee requests the honor of your presence to attend and participate in the Inauguration of Barack H. Obama as President of the United States of America..."

With the inauguration of the first black president, Donnelley says his company is proud to make a piece of history. Even Ellen and Jeff Van Zandt, the only two Republican employees at the printing plant, are excited.

"I got to tell you, he's my president now," Jeff Van Zandt said. "And I hope that over the next four years he is so good that I'm going to be the first on line to vote for him next time."

Frank Polizzi has been in the printing business since he was 12. He says his work on the Obama invitations will make the perfect story for his grandchildren.

"This will be something for people to remember me by," Polizzi said. "You know, like a legacy in a sense -- my last big job."

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