February 18, 2003 11:00 pm

TransWestern Publishing of San Diego, Calif., one of the country's largest independent telephone directory publishers, has purchased Telfax Inc. in La Grande.

Tosh Connor has operated the business in La Grande for 16 years, with his wife joining him in 1994 to handle the financial end of the business.

Tosh Connor handled the production part of the business, which produced three directories in this area.

The local directory included Union, Baker, Wallowa and Grant counties. It has a circulation of 46,500. It will be printed in March and will be Connor's last before new owner Wes Rice takes over.

Telfax also publishes a Umatilla-Morrow County directory, issuing 48,000 copies for mainly the Pendleton and Hermiston areas.

The Walla Walla Valley issue, of 35,000 copies, goes into three counties in Southeast Washington.

TransWestern purchased all three directories and such things as contact lists. It will lease the same office space on Fourth Street in which Telfax moved a few months ago.

"I still retain the Telfax name and a small commercial part of the business that deals with specialty printing, such as business cards," Connor said.

He may look for or erect a building of 2,000 to 2,500 square feet to continue to operate that part of the business, he said.

"I'm not leaving the area, but at 56 I thought it was time to step back. We still have a son (Travis, 12) in school here, so we're not going anywhere," Connor said.

His last day at Telfax will be April 15. A sales staff of six will be retained by the buyer, as will one office person. Four others, who were involved in the data entry and production, will be released April 21, Connor said.

TransWestern Publishing has more than 335 directories in 25 states and has more than 234,000 advertising accounts, primarily consisting of small to mid-sized businesses.