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AlphaGraphics to expand rapidly

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Kevin Cushing

Kevin Cushing

AlphaGraphics, the Salt Lake-based design and print services firm, has launched an aggressive growth plan that will nearly double its number of stores over the next five years.

If successful, the strategy could mean new jobs for Utahns at both the franchisee and corporate levels.

AlphaGraphics currently has 300 franchises worldwide, including stores in Brazil, Cyprus, Saudi Arabia, China and Indonesia.

Its growth plan, announced today at the AlphaGraphics annual conference in Tucson, Ariz., calls for the rollout of its rebranding initiatives and the introduction of new "digital business center" franchises.

The digital business centers reflect the company's aspirations to corner the market serving small- and medium-size businesses, and its efforts to make franchising more feasible for young professionals and others who may not have the capital needed under AlphaGraphics' old franchising model, the company said in a prepared statement. The new stores will require a lower initial investment by franchisees and feature enhanced digital printing capabilities.

Kevin Cushing, AlphaGraphics' chief executive officer, told the Morning News by phone from Tucson that the time is right, and the company is ready to put the pedal down.

"It was a natural time for the refreshing of our strategic plan," Cushing said. "And advances in technology, especially in digital technology, enable us to do this better than we would have been able to a few years ago."

The company will look first for opportunities to expand in markets where it already has a toehold, Cushing said. Examples could be Portland, Houston and Philadelphia. Also, Logan and "a few markets in the Salt Lake City area."

By focusing on the digital business center concept, Cushing said more of AlphaGraphics' existing franchisees will be able to expand in their local markets. About half of the company's growth over the next five years is expected to occur via expansion by existing franchisees, he said.

"The opportunity to have a new business model that is able to be robust enough for growth but requires a lower investment than our traditional model — it opens up a whole new pool of candidates," he said. "It opens us up to owner-operators that can be great candidates for our business."

The other half of AlphaGraphics' anticipated growth is expected to come from acquisitions of independent print shops and new locations in "targeted geographic regions."

Which, for the Utah-based company, may amount to a few dozen new jobs at its corporate offices, in addition to new franchise opportunities.

"You can pretty much assume that for every eight to 10 locations of expansion, it will require another position at our Salt Lake headquarters," Cushing said.

And Salt Lake is expected to be AlphaGraphics' home for the foreseeable future.

"We were founded in Tucson 35 years ago, and our headquarters were here for the first 30 years. While it was a wonderful home for our business, we feel great about our move to Salt Lake five years ago and foresee that being our home for a long time."

E-mail: jnii@desnews.com