By John Wolcott HBJ Freelance Writer
MONROE — When you see giant signs adorning buildings, large banners printed on mesh fabric that resists wind damage, office walls with photo-created wood panels and color images of foliage, sky and clouds, you’re likely looking at products that roll off the high-tech presses at Monroe’s Image Mill.
It’s perhaps not famous in Monroe but it’s certainly well known and respected regionally and nationally among such clients as Microsoft, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Costco, Value Village, Aegis Living, Nike and AT&T Wireless.
Image Mill specializes in large format printing on various materials for offices, stores, trade shows and vehicles, creating branded logos and promotional images.
The company can put durable images of pizzas on tables, corporate logos on chairs, images of drag racers on a semi-truck trailer and marketing images and logos on fleet vehicles.
“Since 1996 we’ve been a pioneer in providing superior quality digital printing services to retail, corporate, trade-show and events industries,” said founder and President Scott Minette. “We’re much more than just a printer, though. Image Mill is a full-service image solutions company. We do prototyping, on-site consultations, design assistance, program and budget management, fulfillment, shipping and installation, as well as even removing images later, after their usefulness is over.”
Image Mill clients rely on its “expertise and technology to manage and deliver consistent brand solutions for each and every project,” he said.
Much of Image Mill’s building is filled with ultra-high-tech equipment, including three large printing presses that produce images with the latest digital technology. Large spaces are available for handling on-site installations, such as vehicles that arrive for an image wraps.
The modern facility has the latest in print control management systems, true-color lighting, digital workflow systems and 3M Co. ultraviolet-cured inks that can last up to seven years outdoors.
Image Mill has 19 employees but more are hired to fill large orders. Quality control is paramount and everyone gets involved in customer service.
“That’s a part of why there are no titles on our business cards,” Minette said. “I’m president but I can clean up as well as any of them. I never ask anyone to do anything that I haven’t done or wouldn’t do myself. There’s responsibility for success at every level. Even the people who pack products into boxes for shipping have an eye out for any errors they notice and they’ve saved us more than a few times by being alert.”
Image Mill’s level of quality production and service creates word-of-mouth referrals that augments the work of his skilled national sales team, Minette said.
Although there is constant marketplace competition locally and nationally, Image Mill’s creativity and client partnerships set the business apart. Minette has an open door policy for clients to learn about printing processes and talk about their marketing needs.
Before coming to the Northwest in 1990, Minette developed his interest in large-format printing in Arizona, working with electrostatic printers that produced architectural drawings. After moving north, he worked in the reprographics industry, later selling Xerox electrostatic printing equipment. By 1994, technology had advanced well beyond architectural drawings into a new world of large-sized digital photos.
In 1996 he formed Image Mill, added longtime co-worker Mike Biderman to the staff and brought in an experienced accountant, his wife, Cindy, who’s now the company’s vice president.
“We started out in Redmond and moved four times in six years,” Minette said. “Each time we moved we thought we had a ton of space and wondered how we’d fill it. We always outgrew it. We began with 600 square feet, now we have 36,000.”
Image Mill’s early clients included Costco and AT&T Wireless. He added Nordstrom in 1999. They helped put the company on the map.
“As we grew, we picked up Starbucks, too. Many days we worked around the clock to get orders filled and projects completed on time,” he said. “We never had any major upsets with our products or services and we won a ton of business that way, including work for Microsoft and their new retail stores.”
Understanding computers, printing and technology has been Minette’s forte. The company created something of a “bakery” image, he said, using “a little of this and a little of that and soon, like a baker, we had thousands of products to choose from for our customers.”
Minette chuckles and shakes his head as he looks around his company’s lofty but spare entrance and reception area.
“We’re just like the shoemaker’s family, so busy with our customers that we still haven’t installed our own promotional pictures for Image Mill and we’ve been here for two years already,” he said.
Sometimes the “customer comes first” philosophy Image Mill lives by means their own projects often get delayed, but Minette makes it clear he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s the people here who make this all come together,” he said. “They’re creative, loyal and dedicated. Everybody understands that the client is number one.”
For more information, go to www.imagemill.com, call 425-861-8651 or visit Image Mill at 17675 147th St. SE, Suite 189, Monroe.