Build where the population is… where real estate is expensive and exterior signs are protected by the cities and municipalities … or not.
The problem: Major national retailers always expect to maximize the amount of allowable signage at each of their sites, however, governments – whether in a municipality or a city – want buildings and signs to be erected within code. This dilemma, more times than not, becomes the challenge of Image Point, the country’s largest producer of industrial and commercial signage.
ImagePoint, well acquainted with the peculiarities of municipal sign laws, a sensitive subject that has the power to turn neighbor against neighbor, will first initiate a complete due diligence process for its major retailers. Due diligence is the process by which all the work is conducted prior to the procurement of the property to ensure maximum signage will be obtained. The process is accomplished hand in hand with the developers and architects to ensure success, and it involves plotting a comprehensive site survey for an analysis of the competitor’s sign package compared to code. Through this preliminary process, ImagePoint is able to develop recommendations regarding the site based on city code and projected variance approval.
Once the site is approved for development, the company morphs new stores over the existing land, which facilitates the permitting process for sign and building permits. Early involvement in the development process also allows pylon and monument signs to be installed one month prior to opening, increasing visibility of a new store.
Such is the ingenuity that has attracted high-profile retail customers into the ImagePoint fold; in fact, ImagePoint has been so successful, it has been able to get variances for more signage than is allowable by code the majority of the time, and in some cases, the company has been able to gain approval to install twice the signage that code allows. “This is really a major point of strength,” says Vice President of Sales Buddy Mayo. And it is not without exaggeration that he adds: “We are the largest manufacturer of signage in the industrial marketplace – we’re twice the size of our next competitor. We are also the largest buyer of sign installation services in the world. We do $60 million in installations a year – that gives us buying power in the industry.”
Since 1944, ImagePoint Inc. has been designing, manufacturing, implementing and maintaining on-site image and branding solutions. The company’s early customers were the Pet Milk company and Coca-Cola and through a series of acquisitions and start-ups it has grown to offer in-house expertise with the most diversified product application in the industry. The company changed its name from Plasti-Line, Inc., in March 2003 in order to better represent its products and services. Its major customers also include GM and McDonald’s – two of its longest standing – as well as CVS/pharmacy, Nextel, Sears, Home Depot, Sunoco, ConocoPhillips, Kia and Kinko’s.
Other big projects undertaken by ImagePoint include sign conversions in the states of Georgia and North Carolina when First Union bought Wachovia in the fall of 2002. ImagePoint performed sign changes in 1,000 locations from February to May. In addition, ImagePoint recently helped Bank One with an image makeover, providing the materials and expertise that allowed the company to adopt a more retail-looking sign and logo. Currently, the company provides sign and lighting maintenance services for more than 24,000 sites nationally, and also does turnkey installation of signage and graphics for 15,000 locations annually. The company is organized in business units aligned with major industry segments: retail, financial, food, automotive and petroleum.
Says Mayo, ImagePoint’s unique ability to provide clients with services that begin from design and extend through the permitting process to installation is what makes it excel in its industry. Each sign is broken down to its component parts, established by the specifications. The piece part approach to volume production ensures that the components are identical year to year. This process eliminates the possibility for unwanted substitutions or human error.
“The beauty of our business is in our ability to protect the client’s investment in capital expenditures by making identical products with replaceable parts,” Mayo stresses. “Another major differentiation is the breadth of our manufacturing raw material expertise.”
He explains that most companies push their customers into one raw material option. Image Point, on the other hand, will manufacture in any material, including acrylic, aluminum, fiberglass and FlexFace. Its core manufacturing competencies include routed aluminum, fiberglass, thermo-formed plastics, silk screening, applied vinyl, and computerized water and laser cutting. “The company will bring in a flat drawing and we’ll then show three to four different ways to make the sign. We’re not limited to a particular raw material and we really don’t favor one or the other.”
ImagePoint also keeps pace with industry trends, including the increased use of LEDs (light emitting diodes) as alternate lighting sources which, depending on the color, provide longer life and lower energy costs. Metal halide technology has also improved illumination, energy cost and maintenance expenditures. “We plan to continue our research on innovative breakthroughs with LED, electronic neon and other energy efficient technology, and automated channel letter manufacturing equipment,” Mayo notes. The company practices its craft in four strategically located facilities that have a combined capacity of 425,000 square feet. These include:
- ImagePoint Inc. (corporate headquarters) in Knoxville, Tenn., a 40,000-square-foot office facility;
- ImagePoint Cincinnati in Florence, Ken., 233,000 square feet;
- ImagePoint Columbia in Columbia, S.C., 90,000 square feet;
- ImagePoint West in Fontana, Calif., 65,000 square feet.
ImagePoint has had steady growth over the past four years, posting revenues of $150 million. Says Mayo, the company has become an industry leader by developing and implementing company-wide service standards and service recovery plans. “We have ensured that our e-commerce tools are user friendly and reliable, and create value for customers by achieving world class quality,” Mayo says, adding, “We have become recognized as the best engineering and product development company in the industry.”