Outdoor Sports

Newman Signs more than outdoor billboards – Jamestown Sun

JAMESTOWN — While most people think of outdoor billboards when they think of Newman Signs, the company does much more, according to Kari Newman Ness, CEO of the company.

Along with digital and printed outdoor signs, the company manufactures traffic signs, installs residential and commercial fencing, prints advertising and decor items and operates a transportation safety division that provides signage and other services in road construction zones.

The billboard, fencing and roadway safety divisions all offer products and services in North Dakota and regionally across the Northern Plains. The traffic signs and printed products are sold nationally with travelers having a chance to see a Newman-manufactured traffic sign in every state but Hawaii.

My parents chose Jamestown largely because of its location and never regretted their choice.

Kari Newman Ness, CEO, Newman Signs

Billboards were the first product of Newman Signs and are still the company’s most visible product although the technology is changing.

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The overlay department places the signage to the metal at Newman Signs in Jamestown.

Newman Signs Photo

“We are always converting static to digital billboards,” Newman Ness said. “Right now we have 63 digital billboards mostly in North Dakota.”

Digital billboards use computer technology to display messages on a large scale visible to passing traffic. The messages change every few seconds offering viewers a variety of information as they travel.

While the technology of digital billboards is most visible, it is the process of making traffic signs currently getting an upgrade in technology, Newman Ness said.

“I’m still struck by how labor intensive it is to make a traffic sign,” she said. “Digital printing of traffic signs has helped a lot but we can do more.”

The new equipment is not intended to reduce the workforce but rather allow the company to do more with the available staff. The company is also looking for new employees.

“Even if we were more technology focused, it’s the people here that keep things moving,” Newman Ness said. “I cannot see a scenario when that will not be the case for Newman Signs.”

Newman Ness said that holds true even in a changing job market.

“Employees can be choosy,” she said. “It is very challenging right now for everyone who is hiring.”

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Some signs are still made with ink screening.

Contributed / Newman Signs

That makes retaining existing workers important.

“We have a few employees who have been at Newman Signs for over 45 years,” she said. “We also have many long-term employees who have been with us 20- or 30-plus years. I cannot overstate the importance and value they bring to Newman Signs.”

Workers and prospective employees bring a wide variety of skills to the job, Newman Ness said. Workers in the manufacturing segments of the business are often trained on the job while other areas require some experience or education.

“Experience is helpful,” Newman Ness said. “It helps us accomplish our goals and, of course, helps the employee move within the company.”

While many individual employees of Newman Signs support the charities of their choice, company-wide efforts include an annual food drive in November and a Christmas message placed across the front of the building during the holiday season.

“I will say there is plenty of need in the Jamestown community and we hope we are doing our share,” Newman Ness said.

Workers at Newman Signs utilize a wide variety of raw materials depending on the product. The company builds its own billboard structures which require steel of varying dimensions. The static or printed signs are made from vinyl which is printed at the company’s plant in Jamestown.

“Billboards are no longer painted by hand which would take one person days,” Newman Ness said. “Now they are printed on a large printer in about an hour.”

Traffic signs are made from sheet aluminum and reflective sheeting while the traffic safety division works with road cones and barrels.

The print division utilizes vinyl, Plexiglass, canvas and other materials to produce its products.

Newman Signs began operations in Jamestown in June 1956 and currently employs 126 people.

“Jamestown has never been a detriment to us,” Newman Ness said. “We’ve always been able to find employees. Jamestown has just been home. We’ve been able to do everything we wanted to do here.”

Harold Newman started the company by hand-painting signs and moved his young family to Jamestown when he graduated college.

“My parents chose Jamestown largely because of its location and never regretted their choice,” Newman Ness said. “… this is an attractive city with much to offer. The only disadvantage, right now, is the lack of workforce. This isn’t specific to Jamestown.”

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