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Computer technology helps keep this old Havre business growing


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Rob and Ray Floren have seen their family's business change dramatically, yet stay the same, since 1963.

Or at least since 1968, when Rob started working for his father, Clyde, at Hill County Printing. Ray started working there in 1973.

The work they do is about the same as it was in 1963. The way they do the work is not.

"It's turned completely around," Rob said today.

"I don't know how we made it, years ago," Ray added.

The business has evolved from selecting individual letters to place in trays to make words and sentences, to designing projects on a computer and receiving projects over the Internet.

The new equipment allows the staff to do more projects.

"We probably do 10 jobs for every one job years ago," Rob said.

"We probably have 120 jobs to do in that book," Ray said, pointing to their jobs list.

The two bought the business from their father in 1990, five years before he died. Most of the major changes were made while all three were at Hill County Printing, although the updates are nonstop.

The business upgraded from old-style presses to setting type with Selectric typewriters, then Compugraphics. Then the business went to desktop publishing programs in 1987.

"It's just been advancing ever since," Rob said.

Business cards, posters, books, selling office equipment that's been part of Hill County Printing since it started, the brothers said.

Other services, like making vinyl signs and designing advertising graphics to be printed on things like glasses, pens and golf balls, are newer.

"We can give the guy a full package," Rob said.

Hill County Printing made two of the "Welcome to Havre" billboards commissioned by the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce, including the sign erected near Fort Benton earlier this year.

The brothers agreed that having worked with the old-style printing presses gives them an advantage. While they can use modern, computerized equipment to make the job easier, they know how and why things work in designing a job. People who have only worked with computer design might not know some of the techniques, they said.

An artist might be able to design a wonderful graphic, Rob said. But it takes a different technique to design a logo than it takes to design a brochure or poster.

The techniques they know are self-taught, Rob said. Their father worked in the printing business before he bought Hill County Printing, but had never run a press before.

The business was originally the commercial printing side of the Havre Daily News. The equipment was used in the basement of the building now holding Shamrock's Bar and Casino, Ray said.

Clyde worked for the Havre Daily but didn't run the press. When he bought the commercial printing side of the business, the equipment was moved to its current location on First Street and Fifth Avenue.

It's been operating in the same location for 40 years, come 2003, Rob said.

Hill County Printing does jobs from Malta to Great Falls to Chester. Some work comes from Canada, and the business does jobs for national organizations that have operations in Havre like the Police Protective Association, Rob said.

The business has a wide variety of clients, he added, because it provides quality work in a timely fashion.

"We've always done good service and good quality work, and that's the key," Rob said.


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