The Progress Printing Company opened its doors on September 1, 1962 in Lynchburg, Virginia. Thomas D. Thornton II, and former partner R.L. McGee, borrowed $5,000 to begin an entrepreneur’s dream. They purchased two rebuilt one-color Chief printing presses and a Kenro vertical camera and completed their first project, a printed piece for General Electric. Over the next several years, a small staff labored long days and many nights to expand the skills and capabilities of Progress Printing.
A philosophy was born in the early days of the company, and evolved into a comprehensive business strategy: a commitment to consistently deliver products and services that meet or exceed customer expectations, and using state-of-the-art technology, craftsmanship, and dedication to achieve optimal performance and value.
A small building addition came in 1963, and the following year a single-color 36" press was purchased. A new 22" press was purchased in 1967 to continue meeting customer expectations. By 1968, following three expansions, Progress had 14 team members and 6,000 square feet of workspace. It was 1976, less than a decade and two additions later, and the company had grown to have 44 team members and 21,000 square feet of space.
A bold dream became reality in 1986. The team was severely crowding the Timberlake facility, so a historic move was engineered. Progress Printing moved into the former General Electric building at 3523 Waterlick Road and built a two-story corporate headquarters. The new plant encompassed more than 120,000 square feet—six times larger than the former plant.
The growing talent and technology inspired a sales and production surge. Market areas expanded throughout the Mid-Atlantic. A 93,000 square foot addition, doubling the size of the plant to nearly five acres under one roof, was completed in August of 1989. Along with the addition completion that fall, a six-color Harris M110B web press was put into operation. Throughout the 90s, Progress Printing made technological leaps into rapidly evolving digital prepress, moving from proprietary color electronic prepress systems to cutting edge open-platform solutions, including digital color proofing, direct digital-to-plate, and high-speed data connectivity with customers.
Between 1994 and 1997, the company invested more than $20 million in new technology. In 1996, Progress Printing acquired a broad range of versatile new press and bindery equipment, including its first eight-color 41” manroland sheetfed press, along with several other state-of-the-art manroland presses. On the acquisitions front, Progress Printing’s affiliate’s, Whittet & Shepperson and Satterwhite Printing, merged in 1994 to become a $7 million operation in Richmond, Virginia called Progress-Richmond. The off-site Progress Printing Fulfillment Center was then established in 1996.
In 1997, sales offices were well-established in major Eastern markets including New York, Washington, D.C., Richmond, Lynchburg, Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh, and Asheville. The Lynchburg headquarters also restructured its sales, customer service, and production entities into four distinct regional business centers: Southeast, Central Virginia, Mid-Atlantic, and National.
Progress Printing continues to evolve with the ever-changing market. Founder T.D. Thornton once said, “It is imperative that Progress Printing continues to be exciting and ever-changing; it is imperative that we continue to grow, reinvest, and challenge each and every individual that is associated with us.”
1998 brought growth and vision with the appointment of the new President, Michael Thornton. Thornton’s leadership over the past decade has brought forth an evolving commitment to meeting industry demands and further developing a skilled, integrity-driven workforce. Continuous technological upgrades and acquisition of digital expertise have become a natural component of daily production at Progress.
Today, Progress Printing Plus serves a coast-to-coast client base of nearly 700 and is one of the nation’s largest, privately held printing companies. They specialize in the printing of stitched and perfect bound catalogs and specialty publications for distribution, plus offer expert consulting, strategic planning, and comprehensive mailing services.
The Progress team is committed to providing a print experience different from anywhere else. Because Progress is now an ESOP/family owned printer, their employees have a vested interest in every customer’s success, and work with diligence and precision to complete work at a level that exceeds expectations—the business philosophy that first originated during the humble beginnings of the company.