Yard Sign Laws Affect Local Sign Maker

By Rachel Martin

November 4, 2012 Updated Nov 4, 2012 at 10:30 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) – Are you wondering why you’re not seeing as many political yard signs lately? A Local sign maker says he thinks he knows why.

Keith Hanson makes signs, and when it's an Election Year, he specializes in political signs. But just like everything else, the economy's affected his business, Custom Art Screen Printing in Fort Wayne.

“It's been irregular. It's had some ups and some downs, some surprises both good and bad,” said Hanson.

But it's not just the economy. In 2007, Fort Wayne City officials passed an ordinance stating all signs must be kept eleven feet from the edge of the street in compliance with the City's right-of-way laws. If a sign is in the way, authorities have the right to remove it.

“All of a sudden all the candidates who were buying 3,000 signs were buying 300,” he said.

The following year, Hanson says he tracked the difference in revenue. By the first primary, he says he lost $47,000 and another $46,000 with the General Election, causing him to lose $93,000 in one year. Hanson credits the sign ordinance, and says it’s caused politicians to change their campaign strategies by not using as many signs.

“They don't feel there are as many locations that they can legally put them. And so, they're spending more of that money on these mailing pieces that are going out and flooding mailboxes,” he said.

Hanson has owned Custom Art Screen Printing for 50 years, and since politicians have changed their campaign strategies, he’s had to change with them.

“The change in political signs over the years has been phenomenal—from the size to the shape, to the structure, to how they’re put up, to where they’re put up. It’s just a whole new ball game,” he said. “We now have a two person graphics department with the latest in computer graphics. We produce our own film. We shoot and print four-color process. We've now gone into digital printing with two small presses and one large press.”

You can see many of Hanson's signs around Allen County, but he won't tell you whose signs are his.

“If they're colorful, attractive, eye-catching, they're ours,” he said with a smirk.

Hanson told INC that he is no longer the president of Custom Arts Screen Printing, but that his daughter, Teresa Sutton, bought 51 percent of company last week and has taken over the reigns. He says with a new generation of equipment should come a new generation of ownership.

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