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Made in Michiana: Valley Screen

MISHAWAKA, Ind. -- ABC 57 takes you to Valley Screen in Mishawaka for this month's Made in Michiana. They've spent the last 50 years working to compete and stay on the cutting edge of screen and digital graphic manufacturing.

Logos and decals may be flying off the presses now, but business has not always been this good. Valley Screen had just six employees when Jerry Bauer founded his Mishawaka screen printing business, and that meant sometimes it was all handson deck.

“My dad made me come to work when I was 16 because we had a big postal job that we had to get out and he told me I had to show up for work and the rest is history I guess,” Valley Screen President and CEO Karen Barnett said.

Fast forward a few decades, and Jerry's daughter, Karen, is now calling the shots. She oversees the company's 65 employees.

“Over the years we’ve evolved into a large-format printer doing not only screen printing, but digital printing as well," Barnett said.

She works to carry on her father's legacy by emphasizing quality in the company's custom-designed graphics for RVs, boats, vehicle wraps and banners. She says the key is the work environment he created.

“The number one thing that he taught us was to respect each other, to be good to each other. That was him. He was awesome. He was great,” Barnett said.

Bauer believed a little bit of candy would go a long way into cultivating a lasting culture. Jerry was known to walk every square inch of his plant, share a joke and hand out a piece of candy to each of his employees, each and every day.

Now, Barnett strives to share a piece of him. You can find "candy bars" set up throughout the building, with small plaques sharing Jerry's story.

It's those reminders that have carried the company through hard times like the 2008 recession.

“ We had a lot of time on our hands because RVs and boats were not selling, we weren’t producing graphics for them,” Barnett said.

So Barnett and her team used that time to find a way to re-invent Valley Screen.

“We came up with graphics for the inside of buildings," Barnett said.

The company's creative division just wrapped up one of its biggest projects yet, last year at Beacon Children's Hospital. No matter how big the projects, or how tough the times, one thing remains as true now as it was when Jerry started the company.

“He made this place about family first. And we still have that today as our goal," Barnett said.

And it's what they hope will carry Valley Screen forward, keeping their Made in Michiana graphic designs on the cutting edge of the industry.

If you know of any businesses you would like to see featured in our next Made in Michiana, let us know. You can email us at News57@ABC57.com.

Be sure to watch ABC 57 News Monday, February 5 for our next Made in Michiana.

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