Sixteen thousand potential sign users per week formerly learned of signs’ importance
The following article originally appeared in the September 2000 issue of Signs of the Times magazine. A huge victory for the sign industry at the time, the SBA website content was later removed due to faulty sign-industry leadership. However, FASI has resurrected the entire content of the former website. View it here.
By Darek Johnson
“There are approximately 25 million small businesses in the United States.”
Most of us admire people who get things done, especially when the outcome may not reward them with favors, flags or fame. With this in mind, let me tell you about a group of people who have been quietly working on a project that will help all of us. Primarily, the group is the staffs, boards, directors and chiefs of the International Sign Association (ISA), the Signage Foundation for Communication Excellence (now defunct) and the Small Business Administration (SBA).
Through the work of these staffs, the Signage Foundation recently signed a co-sponsorship contract with the SBA to participate in its website, www.sba.gov. By this, the foundation acquired a tag link on the SBA site that moves viewers to a page informing start-up business owners – and anyone else – of the importance of signs. The foundation says researchers, investors, bankers and sign buyers will use the site.
This was the first time a government agency independently recognized, and worked with, the sign industry. The Signage Foundation, headed by Jim and Susan Claus, says its goal is to change the way our society views on-premise signs. Believing that many planners and government officials have an unrealistic view of the value that signs bring to our society, the foundation produces research and documents designed to change, as it says, the knowledge base of the professionals who effect on-premise signs in our society.
The foundation, united with ISA’s board of directors, arranged a co-sponsorship agreement with the SBA to develop a sign-related website. This link, tagged from the SBA “Starting Your Own Business” section, will take viewers directly to the Foundation’s www.signagefoundation.org website.
The foundation link will be online with the SBA in February 2001.
The SBA is the nation’s largest financial backer of small businesses. In 1999, it worked with more than one million small-business owners. It has a portfolio of business loans, loan guarantees and disaster loans worth more than $45 billion and a venture capital portfolio of $13 billion. The second page of the SBA site shows the signage link. If you go there, click the “Starting” tab on the first page. On the left, you’ll find the typical series of Web buttons and, once its installed, you’ll tag the signage-advisory button here.
The SBA site receives 9.5 million hits a week; “Starting Your Own Business gets 17% of these. Even if, say, only 1% of browsers tag the sign link, that s roughly 16,150 hits a week by viewers who are presently involved, or about to be involved, in small business. Sign users and qualified sign buyers.
I called Cal Lutz, ISA’s chairman of the board. Cal and ISA’s President and CEO Mark Lappen have been working with the foundation and the ISA board of directors on this project. Cal said, ‘We’re trying to reach start-up business people and give them important information about signs. This is a good way to do it,” Cal says both the foundation and ISA were seeking a public-awareness opportunity, and the SBA link seemed appropriate. Working together, the newly formed team approached the ISA board for approvals and funding,
The board immediately saw the value of this link. It also acknowledged that this is the first time the government recognized on-premise sign businesses as an industry and that other opportunities may spring from this connection.
They met at the ISA Expo 2000 show in Orlando and agreed to further explore the idea. All parties agreed to talk again at ISA’s Anaheim show. Meanwhile, Cal, Mark, and Jim and Susan Claus went back to work. Among other things, they needed to:
* Determine the agreement’s lifespan; * Address the project’s legal and economic rights; * Determine start-up and annual operating budgets; * Develop a mission statement: * Benchmark the site’s information; * Negotiate for the best link-button positioning on SBA’s page; and * Negotiate the contract.
Cal says two types of individuals will use the site: those who apply it to everyday life for convenience and profitability, and a second tier of people who will use it for reference. It will feature case studies of successful signage, economic value of signs and legal rights, and will be an evolving site of information on signage. Also, you’ll find links to other, sign-related sites.
At Anaheim, the foundation won ISA’s approval. In fact, the board voted to contribute $190,000 for developing and researching the site and agreed to fund-raise an additional $1 million for continued site operation. as well as further industry research and promotion.