Chron Publisher Frank Vega (pictured) announced today that his paper is getting out of the printing business and has signed a 15-year contract with a Canadian company to print the Chronicle at a new plant in the Bay Area in 2009. Transcontinental Inc., the seventh largest printer in North America and the largest in Canada, will build and own the presses.

The story didn’t say how this switch will affect the Chron’s 237 unionized printers, who have been negotiating for a new contract after their last one expired on July 1, 2005, or other pressroom employees. Including the printers, the Chronicle’s pressroom employs 400 to 450 people. The Web Pressmen & Prepress Workers Union Local 4N held a demonstration in front of the Chronicle on Aug. 11 to complain that the paper had not been bargaining with them in good faith and was attempting to gut their previous contract.

Transcon, in a press release, said the contract with the Chronicle plus the printing of other products at this new plant will surpass $1 billion in total revenues over the 15-year period. Transcontinental said it plans to invest $200 million in the plant and presses. A physical location for the new plant wasn’t disclosed.

It’s unusual but not unprecedented for a contractor to print a daily newspaper. Last year, the 70,000-circulation Daily Breeze in Torrance, Calif., shut down its printing operation and outsourced to Southwest Offset in Gardena, Calif. Southwest also prints the San Mateo Daily Journal and the Daily News Group (Palo Alto Daily News, San Mateo Daily News, etc.) at its plant in Redwood City. The Chronicle is believed to be the biggest U.S. newspaper to outsource all of its printing.

[PPC, Dec. 19, 2005: Chron may outsource printing] [PPC, Aug. 8, 2006: Chron pressmen’s union to picket] [PPC, Aug. 12, 2006: Chronicle union faces Tuesday deadline]

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