PrintingForLess, one of Livingston’s powerhouse employers, announced Tuesday it expanded with the acquisition of machinery from Southwest Color, a Tucson, Ariz.-based printing company.

PrintingForLess spokesman Dan Rice was optimistic the acquisition represents growth, though he couldn’t say how many jobs the company might add locally.

“PrintingForLess is in a growth mode,” he said Tuesday. “This acquisition is one of those ways we will continue to grow.”

Specifically, the acquisition brings digital printing capabilities to the online printing company, which previously offered only offset printing.

Digital printing is a valuable addition to PFL’s capabilities, allowing the company to offer new products like variable printing to allow customers to better target marketing materials within a single print run.

For example, a car dealership could send an advertising postcard with a sedan on it to one set of customers and the same basic postcard with a pickup truck on it to others. That gets very expensive with offset printing, Rice said.

Digital printing also allows for smaller batches without significant per-piece cost increases. So it provides benefits for both larger and smaller scale customers. PFL typically served medium-sized companies.

PFL brings its customer base, service experience and online presence since 1999 to the partnership.

Southwest Color owner Chad Smith moved to Livingston to run the digital operation.

“Everybody in this venture is going to benefit immensely,” he said in a prepared statement. “Both companies have something different to offer and I look forward to working with PFL to expand our product offerings to both of our customer bases. (Southwest Color) call(s) on a different group of customers (than PFL) so there’s not much overlap.”

The acquisition could grow manufacturing and sales and bring job opportunities to the region, Rice said.

“That’s our intention. We’re very committed to this community,” he said.

That’s good news for an area that has not seen a drop in unemployment.

According to a state database, Park County’s unemployment remained stagnant at 8.5 percent between November and December, more than a percentage point up from October’s rate.

The statewide unemployment rate dropped another 0.3 percent to 6.8 percent in December after four consecutive months of decreases, the Montana Department of Labor and Industry announced Tuesday.

In 2008, PFL announced layoffs along with Livingston employers Stillwater Mining Co. and R-Y Timber.

“They were laying people off because of the big speed bump that affected everybody on the economic highway” at the time, Livingston Area Chamber of Commerce Director Lou Ann Nelson said. “But (the acquisition) sounds like a win-win situation for both organizations.”

“Anything that grows the job base in Livingston is welcome,” said Ryan Springer, board chair of Vision Livingston Downtown Partnership.

PFL CEO Andrew Field said in a prepared statement that Southwest Color will be an important part of his company’s success.

“We fully expect to explore further strategic acquisitions in 2012,” he said.

Jodi Hausen can be reached at jhausen@dailychronicle.com or 582-2630.

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