STEUBENVILLE - Days after the city signed off on a zoning change that will allow him to operate a graphics and screen printing business on Lovers Lane, owner Ed Hofrichter says he expects to be up and running by the end of the month.
The Avella native and co-founder of H&H Screening and Graphics says the equipment was delivered to the 7-acre site within a day of council signing off on the zoning change.
"Everything finalized yesterday; we moved our equipment in yesterday, we started construction yesterday," Hofrichter said. "We're very excited about the opportunities."
TALKING ABOUT PLANS — H&H Graphics and Screen Print owner Ed Hofrichter expects to have his new Steubenville operation online before the end of the month. Hofrichter, right, and Progress Alliance Executive Director Ed Looman spent the past two years scouring Jefferson County for a suitable property, settling on a 7-acre site on Lover’s Lane. - Linda Harris
Hofrichter's flagship plant in southern California has been in operation for 26 years, specializing in screen-printed sports T-shirts for boys' sizes 8-20 and infant creepers for boys and girls. He's been working with Outer stuff, the company licensed by professional sports leagues and colleges to supply their youth shirts, since 2001, and the Steubenville location will allow him to grow that arrangement.
"Reebok and Adidas were looking for a Midwest distributor," he said. "I've been working in their program, been a distributor/dealer for them, since 2001. We have a good rapport."
About a year ago he said they approached him to discuss problems with their Midwest distributions.
"They knew I was local and wanted to know if I had any solutions for them," he said.
His solution opening a second, centrally located plant in the Tri-State Area was simple enough; locating the perfect site much less so.
"Finding a location that wasn't too old, that was big enough and had enough space to grow, that was the issue," he said. "We looked at ... I don't want to say hundreds of properties, but we looked at a lot of sites all over the Tri-State Area. We didn't just look at Ohio, we looked in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, too."
The Steubenville location will give them quick access to sports markets in, say, Chicago and Green Bay, as well as Pittsburgh, he said.
"The other thing they want to do is make a distribution house," he said. "They have about 14 different printers in the Midwest, all shipping out of different locations. They want to centralize distribution where all their stuff would come in, then we would take it and get it out to the stores. So we're going to take this from being just a production facility to being the Midwest distribution center for Outer stuff."
Hofrichter said they've already hired 25 workers and have another 25 "waiting in the wings."
"We're looking to potentially get up to 250 employees at this location over the next three years," Hofrichter added. "We're looking to have 75 employees over the first year."
Hofrichter said his brother-in-law, Jeff Pavkovich, will manage day-to-day operations at the Steubenville plant and said the business should be a major driver in the local economy. Initially, he said they figure to do 5 million to 6 million shirts a year locally, adding that they "have the capability of giving me more work than we can handle."
"We could do 20 million shirts out of this area if I can get the labor, if the community wants to grow," he said.
Hofrichter, meanwhile, credits his parents, Fred and Beverly of Avella, with instilling in their children a solid work ethic and said it was his father's relationship with Franciscan University of Steubenville's Dave Skiviat - the two are in the Tri-State Harmonizers together - that brought Jefferson County to the forefront of his plans. His father casually mentioned to Skiviat that Hofrichter's son was looking to open a Midwest operations center, and Skiviat took it from there, making sure Progress Alliance Executive Director Ed Looman and his staff were aware of the opportunity. From there it was all Progress Alliance, he said.
"The Progress Alliance people are important for your area. I don't know if people around here realize how important," he added. "Our business is going to bring in $100 million in business over 10 years, that's the 10-year plan, and it's very doable."
Hofrichter and his wife, Debbie, have four sons, and that's a big factor in his future growth plans.
"It's for the next generation," he said. "I want to turn shirts, make another industry in Steubenville that will go into the next generation. I have four boys - this is not just going through me, it's going through the next generation."
He said it's a three-pronged growth plan. "There's lots of opportunities, once we get our feet down and the machines start turning," he said. "Before the end of the year we'll have the first phase complete. Then we'll have two more phases on the drawing board to take this to a major facility."
That includes expanding his square footage in 2013 and making a big push to capture Canadian market shares.
"The biggest thing about production is sales, and I have the sales," he said. "I have a great rapport with the major brands (Reebok, Adidas and Nike) through Outerstuff. It's just a great opportunity for me, for my family, for Steubenville and for Outerstuff to have major distribution in the Midwest."