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Knight Printing: More Than Just A Tradition

Knight Printing's Todd Clausnitzer and Dave Nelson

Photos by Hillary Ehlen

Founded before North Dakota became a state, Knight Printing is alive, prospering and here to meet your printing needs. 

A PIONEER OF BUSINESS

Knight Printing was established in 1888 when Fargo was still young, and North Dakota had not yet become a state. Fred Knight, an east coast printer, hauled a printing press west to the Dakota Territory to start his company. From this humble beginning through today, that very same passion has driven growth and change to meet the challenges of today and provide customers with the best printing possible.

Co-owned by Todd Clausnitzer and Dave Nelson, Knight Printing is the oldest company in North Dakota. With nearly 25 years  of printing experience, Nelson has had the opportunity to experience all aspects of printing, from production to sales and the business operations of the company. Clausnitzer has worked for and with many agencies around the world since 1983. With his illustrative abilities, creative savvy and extensive knowledge of the print industry, he adds a whole new dimension to every project that is produced at Knight Printing.

For Nelson, the challenge of running and sustaining the longest-running business in North Dakota can be a little daunting.

“It scares me to death. What was the vision of Fred Knight? What was the vision of Steve Gorman? What was the vision of the people that ran the company before, and are we still holding on to that vision?” Nelson often asks himself. “Our predecessors, that stuff means a lot. We have a vision, but the company has a lot of history. I think you need to respect that.”

Knight Printing occupies a 37,000 square foot production facility and employs over 40 people — the backbone of the award-winning company.

A PEOPLE COMPANY

With nearly 25 years of printing experience, Nelson has had the opportunity to experience all aspects of printing, from production to sales and the business operations of the company. What sets Knight Printing aside from the rest, he believes, is the “good people” Knight employs.

Companies that put people first get ahead. They attract the best, and as a result, their business flourishes because they invest in their biggest opportunity for growth – their people. Knight Printing knows their people are the most valuable asset, and that company success is dependent on their workforce being successful.

THE DAY-TO-DAY MANUFACTURING

On what goes into the day-to- day manufacturing, Nelson joked, “Wave the magic wand, hit the magic start button and it comes out finished on the other side.

Every work center and cost center you have, there are people behind those work centers. There are people who make that craft and product the right way. They spend a lot of time and care making sure that the product comes out our backdoor is what our customer expected coming in the front door.” 

Printer at Knight Printing in Fargo, ND

While the company has been around for a long time, the industry is undergoing a drastic change. In the late 2000s, there were roughly 70,000 printers in the US. Then the recession happened, and the number of printers left was around 34,000-35,000. Basically, half of the printers were eliminated, but the industry only fell 12-13 percent. Today, in such a sophisticated business, Nelson says there’s not a lot of organic growth.

“If you’re going to grow right now, it’s a lot of acquiring somebody else on their retirement threshold. So you’re going to pick up their sales, equipment, so you’re not losing. The industry isn’t going away, but it’s consolidating.”

THE FUTURE OF PRINTING

When asked what advice he’d give someone looking to start up a printing company, Clausnitzer had one concise answer, “don’t.”

“Unless you’ve got history behind it, something that you’re anchored in and you’re gonna build that product, it’s going to take a while and technique,” Nelson chimed in. “I think it’s coming back around. The days of the deteriorating print market is coming back the other way. Fargo is a wonderful market for us. It’s a growing market. It’s a great market.”

Knight Printing was established in 1888 when Fargo was still young, and North Dakota had not yet become a state. Fred Knight, an east coast printer, hauled a printing press west to the Dakota Territory to start his company. From this humble beginning through today, that very same passion has driven growth and change to meet the challenges of today and provide customers with the best printing possible.

One thing is certain: direct mailing isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s seen a spike in frequency and revenue. The post office had a $187 million bump last year as far as not only increase in rates, but also increase in product that’s going through the post office. Because of the plethora of communication channels, communication has become fragmented. However, print isn’t because you only have one mailbox. “Eighty-three percent of all emails that are sent are ever opened. Sixty percent of voicemails aren’t listened to. We can still communicate through our clients and customers to the mailbox,” Nelson said.

As long as the communication is there, the print is going to be in some form or fashion. With Knight Printing, they are always looking at what the best avenue is today for their customers. Their slogan personifies that.

“We’re not the best because we are the oldest, We’re the oldest because we are the best.”

130 years of success, Knight Printing has the recipe for 130 more. 

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Written by Dan Slaubaugh

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