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Pete's Point: Building will be for sale, but newspaper isn't going away

Echo Building May 2018.JPG

A "for sale" sign will soon be placed in front of the Echo Journal building on Lake Street in Pequot Lakes.

And, although our building will be put on the real estate market, we want to make it clear to our readers and advertisers that the Echo Journal business, owned by Forum Communications, will continue as a media service that provides information to our print and digital audiences.

Over the past two years, Forum Communications has focused on matching its buildings with staff sizes while also moving away from ownership and into facility lease agreements. Moving to smaller offices is also an industry trend that has affected all sizes of media operations - including large Minnesota newspapers in Rochester and St. Cloud.

One of the biggest reasons for the facility downsizing is the declining number of locations with newspaper printing presses. The space needed for printing presses, newsprint rolls and pallets of advertising products takes a good percentage of square feet in most newspaper facilities. Not having a printing press and working with less staff has resulted in open available space at many newspaper offices.

The Echo Journal office does have open space since, unfortunately, there’s now one-third of the employees that we had compared to 15 years ago. Additional open space was created when the Echo Journal sold its small commercial printing business to Lakes Printing of Brainerd seven years ago. A majority of that room has been used for storage of our Discover Racks business. Those print products, mostly magazines, fill the display stands in almost 100 area locations.

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Despite being in an older office, we worked hard to keep the building in good condition, including putting on a new roof two years ago and painting the exterior and most of the interior offices over the years.

So our building will be on the real estate market for a second time in the past seven years. The Echo Journal building was also listed back in 2012, but without a serious offer it was taken off the market two years later. This time there seems to be more interest in real estate purchases in our area. So we will see.

So what happens if the building sells?

We believe in having a location in the communities that we serve, even if it means leasing a smaller office or sharing an office inside another business. We understand the importance of having a presence close to our core communities. One reason is for customer convenience, although we do have much less walk-in traffic than 15 years ago when we often had a couple dozen visitors per day at the Echo Journal office dropping off news releases, buying classified advertisements or making subscription payments.

Today, most of those tasks are done online. The digital communication is faster and more convenient, but the Echo Journal staff does miss the personal interaction with walk-in customers.

If we can’t find a new home up north, another option will be to have the Echo Journal staff work from the Brainerd Dispatch office, where some of the tasks are already being performed. Echo Journal and Dispatch employees do overlap for some news and sports coverage, plus advertising, circulation and front office duties.

The first time our Pequot Lakes building was for sale, the Echo Journal staff did perform page design tasks from the Brainerd office on production days for the newspaper and the Echoland Shopper. But many of our industry tasks, from writing stories to designing pages, has become more mobile over the years and our newspaper page layout is currently being done by a variety of designers around our company.

How we perform the duties keeps changing, along with production technology, but the bottom line is that we continue to produce quality coverage that our customers expect. We will continue the important coverage of our area communities no matter where our office is located.

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We have a great Echo Journal staff that has combined to earn 25 Minnesota Newspaper Association awards (top three finisher among all state weekly newspapers) over the past five years.

In a perfect world we would stay in our Echo Journal building forever. I know that our staff, past and present, has enjoyed many fond memories working from the Pequot Lakes office.

Related Topics: ECHO JOURNAL
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