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Sioux Falls Business Thrives On Campaign Signs

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Come fall or elections time, it's pretty common to spot campaign signs on busy streets throughout the city of Sioux Falls. While you may be tired of seeing them, one business in the Sioux Empire thrives on them. So KDLT found out what goes on behind the scenes as the largest producer of campaign signs in the state wraps up the season.

It's like a well-oiled machine, lay out the design and slide on some paint. As soon as the campaign sign is dried, in the lawn it goes.

Advertising Arts, Inc. President Steve Cook said, "The election season is the biggest time of the year, every other year. We're probably the only ones in South Dakota that wish there was an election every year."

It wasn't always this easy though. In 1949, when Cook's dad started Advertising Arts, Inc. in Sioux Falls, signs had to be hand painted.

Cook said, "Twenty to thirty years ago a basic sign was created by hand film and exposed to a screen and we put one color in at a time."

Now, with the help of a computer and an $80,000 machine, you can put a face to the name.

"With digital printers, when somebody wants there photograph on a sign you know we can make a small or a large sign and include their photograph for not only name recognition but face recognition," said Cook.

One of these works of art will run you about $25 a sign. And it's these signs that Cook and his half a dozen or so employees spend all summer printing. The company has a big rush before the primaries in June and another one in the fall when the Novemeber election comes around.

"We do both local elections, state-wide elections and across the border, in Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska a few times," said Cook.

This year wasn't as busy because there aren't any big state-wide elections like a gubernatorial race or a controversial issue, such as abortion, on the ballot. During times like those, they'll have orders that top 500,000 signs.

Cook said, "We can usually turn an order of 100 around in a day or two. The 10,000 or 20,000 of course are going to take a week or two to get done."

With the election just one month away, business has slowed down a bit. However, Cook says there's always orders that come in last minute, candidates who realize they need a couple more signs.

"Candidate so and so will call and need a 50 or a 100 more of this sign or a I found a spot where I can put up a big sign, 'Can you make me one for this spot?'" said Cook.

They'll order enough signs to give them one last push.

Cook said, "The name is the most important thing."

The price of signs depends on the number of signs that are ordered. A sign with the wire stake will cost a candidate about $3 a sign for a large order. If a candidate wants only 100, it will run them about $7 or $8 a sign.
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