SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The company that prints, distributes and sells advertising for Salt Lake City's two daily newspapers is leaving for the suburbs, an $80 million-plus move that promises better-looking papers but more bad news for downtown.
Newspaper Agency Corporation, the partnership between Deseret Morning News and The Salt Lake Tribune, said Wednesday that it's near a deal with West Valley City to build a state-of-the-art, 320,000-square-foot structure that would hold the papers' new printing presses, distribution equipment and the NAC sales staff.
The building should be ready for business in the spring of 2006.
The papers' decades-old presses, which are considered arcane and routinely produce fuzzy and washed-out images, currently roll in a structure along Salt Lake City's flagging Main Street. Many believe that downtown can't afford another big business departure.
For West Valley City -- Utah's second largest city -- the deal means about 800 jobs.
NAC already has architecture and printing-press contracts in place. The presses, built by the Japanese firm TKS, will bring a cleaner look to the newspapers and a level of automation that will lead the industry, NAC president Joseph Zerby said Wednesday.
"We're going to be able to produce a much better product. The quality will be greatly increased," Zerby said. "We're printing on ancient equipment in terms of our industry. These presses are going to be just phenomenal, state-of-the-art."
That efficiency is expected to force some job cuts, which Zerby said should come through attrition.
Numerous West Valley City officials refused to discuss what role the city played in luring NAC out of downtown Salt Lake City.
Messages left with Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson's office were not immediately returned.
Downtown Main Street, the revitalization of which was a main theme of the mayoral debates before Anderson won re-election in November, is a stretch of empty storefronts and struggling small businesses and eateries whose operators routinely complain the city isn't doing enough to energize the urban core.
Such efforts got a boost recently when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a massive redevelopment plan downtown that includes retail, residential and higher education space. The church already owns downtown's biggest retail calling cards, the ZCMI Center and Crossroads malls.
The NAC's move continues a period of significant change for both newspapers.
Last summer's move from afternoon to morning publication by the Desert Morning News not only changed the media landscape in Salt Lake City but also put a heavy strain on the NAC's aging presses.
The Tribune, meanwhile, is considering moving its editorial operations out of its current building on Main Street.
"I've told the staff of the Tribune numerous times that the while the Tribune is committed to staying downtown, we'll look at other operations for more efficient use of space," said Dean Singleton, Tribune publisher and chief executive of its owner, MediaNews Group Inc.
Singleton said "nothing's been looked at seriously" and said any move likely wouldn't occur until after the NAC relocated to West Valley.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)