Before plunging into the signage market, Batterson, Inc., in Houston, began its business as a road marking company, initially taking on striping jobs for small streets and parking lots. But Batterson soon moved to larger projects, such as striping the many parking lots of the University of Houston and the historic Astrodome. From there, Batterson’s reputation grew as it continually took on larger projects, and it became clear that the signage industry was a natural market crossover.
Paul Konvicka, signs and rental manager of Batterson, says moving into signage particularly goes hand-in-hand with road marking services because many of the projects call for a threefold solution. The first element of a typical Batterson project is traffic control, which means adding a lane to the highway or even engineering a new road. Then the Batterson team marks the road with white or yellow directional strips or, as Konvicka colorfully terms, the “mayonnaise and the mustard.” Once these project components are complete, permanent signage is installed, and many types of signage are possibly needed.
“There may be a curve ahead or speed limits or directional signs that tell the traffic which highways are intersecting or stop signs, maybe some with just street name blades, like Jones Avenue crossing Travis Street,” explains Konvicka.
Before taking on signage services, Konvicka believes Batterson was losing a large competitive market share that could be a profitable avenue.
“When we’re looking at the plans for the striping, it’s always signage and striping,” notes Konvicka. “They’re always together, so those are the last things that happen on a project before that road is opened.”
BUILDING A NEW LOOK
Projects of this nature typically are non-commercial ventures, assigned from both public and private entities and general contractors in the Texas area. Recently, Batterson partnered with the city of Piney Point, an area of Houston and private municipality, because it was time to give the streets in this residential district a custom, refined look. Many of the current signs were faded or had dilapidated, due to the weather, and the typical galvanized county poles already in place were, according to Konvicka, “just kind of plain Jane.”
Konvicka says the engineer, who was directly working for Piney Point, was looking for a decorative pole, which is how he came across Metalcraft Industries. The Metalcraft poles are fluted throughout the bodies with textured bases, providing a unique, sophisticated look, says Konvicka.
When installing these signs, Konvicka and his team first researched the underground utilities in the area to make sure they didn’t bust a water or gas line. Once those spots were located, the sign positions were marked, and using an augur drill bit, they dug 4' holes that were filled with cement and set the poles as specified in the bit documents.
Not only are these Metalcraft poles more aesthetically appealing, but they also are more durable, says Konvicka.
“Typically, when you’re putting a county post in the ground, you’re going in about 2', 2 Â½', but these are going in 4Â½" feet of concrete,” says Konvicka. “The poles are a lot longer. When you’re dealing with a pole that’s a county pole, it’s probably going to be an average of 10' to 12' in total length. These are 15' in total length.”
ON-PREMISE SIGN SHOP HELPS MANAGE BUSINESS
Each sign face was engineered in-house. Using a Gerber plotter, Konvicka cut the vinyl, which was first created in a CAD-animated design system, from 3M Diamond Grade VIP Reflective Sheeting Series 3990, and applied it to the aluminum substrate. With a reflective media, the sign face provides a nighttime-illumination quality. Once all sign faces were fabricated, they then were bolted to brackets of the Metalcraft poles.
Having an in-house sign shop for this type of business, Konvicka believes, has helped Batterson be more efficient in completing its projects and meeting client expectations, not only for this project but others as well. Sometimes last-minute changes are required, and Batterson quickly can adapt.
“We don’t have to wait. Some people who install signs may send out the manufacturing of the signs, but we will go ahead and make them here,” explains Konvicka. “So we can control our own destiny, as far as if something needs to be rushed, we can put that ahead of everything else and go ahead and make them and get them ready.”
Konvicka estimates that it takes road marking companies without an in-house sign shop one to two weeks to make any necessary changes, mostly due to backlog.
Over the past year, Batterson was one of the many companies affected by the crunch of a sluggish economy, yet Konvicka finds that this has changed since the new stimulus package passed, which offers additional state funding, consequently expanding the number of road and signage projects.
“It’s really going to affect our industry because there are a lot of roads that need to be maintained or rebuilt due to conditions that weren’t able to be addressed because of lack of funds in the past,” notes Konvicka. “A lot of bridges are going to be prepared, and any time there’s construction on a road, there’s always a chance for us to do traffic control and put down some permanent signs.”
Most of Batterson’s past projects have come from city and county bids. State projects also have been a part of Batterson’s clientele, but the availability of these bids was fewer; however, this is changing. Before the stimulus package, Texas state projects were limited to only two bid days per month. But with the extra funding, the Texas now has opened the bidding process to four days at the beginning and end of the month.
With more emerging projects, Batterson’s continued commitment to customer service allows it to grow and satisfy its clients. Open and consistent communication is crucial when working on road signage project, says Konvicka, as it builds a sense of credibility.
“What separates us is our reputation and our quality of work. We’ve won jobs strictly on our ability to take care of people.”