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Printer of the first 'Tele' invests £4m in new digital press

By John Mulgrew

Published 05/03/2016

While the technology has changed considerably in 150 years, the thick and heady scent of ink hitting paper remains.

Antrim printers W&G Baird has invested £4m in the latest high-tech digital printing system - 146 years after it founded and published the Belfast Telegraph.

That first edition of the then Belfast Evening Telegraph hit the streets in September 1870 with a cover price of a halfpenny.

While the huge new printing machine isn't whisper quiet, it's far removed from the mechanical majesty of the clunky and noisy Victorian presses.

According to W&G Baird, the new technology has increased its output capacity by a considerable 70%.

Managing director Patrick Moffett told the Belfast Telegraph the new system was a "quantum leap forward" for the business.

"In terms of the press, it's able, every year, to save around 2.5m sheets of paper in waste and about 350 tonnes of carbon," he explained.

"It will allow us to sustain our position in Northern Ireland and grow our exports in the Republic of Ireland and mainland UK."

W&G Baird prints a range of magazines and other publications, including Ulster Business, one of four publications Belfast Telegraph parent company Independent News & Media (INM) bought from Greer Publications last month.

William Savage Baird and George Courtenay Baird founded the firm in 1862 after buying the Ulster Printing Company for the princely sum of £450 after it went into voluntary liquidation.

When the duo set up shop, all typesetting was done by hand.

The firm began life at Arthur Street in Belfast and subsequently moved to Royal Avenue in 1886, and was owned by the Baird family until the retirement of Sir William Baird in 1951.

The business is now run by Mr Moffett with directors David Hinds, Trevor Brennan and Niall Hannigan, and is located just outside Antrim town.

Following a tour of the print floor, Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell said: "It's a 150-year history... I think what it shows is that a company which innovates, can succeed."

W&G Baird received £500,000 from the growth loan fund as well as £99,500 of support from Invest NI.

Gavin Kennedy, director of business banking at Bank of Ireland, said: "We are pleased to have supported W&G Baird, with whom we have a longstanding relationship, in funding this investment."

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