Milwaukee sign manufacturer merges with Illinois firm

Sign Factory Inc., a Milwaukee-based manufacturer of signs and awnings for commercial clients, has merged with American Sign & Lighting Co. of Bensenville Ill.

The merged company is now named American Sign Factory. All sign manufacturing has been relocated to Sign Factory’s 28,000-square-foot facility at 4811 Woolworth Ave. on Milwaukee’s northwest side, said Jordan Uditsky, former president of American Sign & Lighting Co., who has been named president of the merged firm.

With the merger, three former American Sign & Lighting Co. workers relocated to Milwaukee, Uditsky said.

The building that American Sign & Lighting occupied in Bensenville is within the area of O’Hare International Airport’s expansion, and the company needed to move its manufacturing and production operations.

“We had to leave, and we had a choice,” Uditsky said. “We could buy or lease a building or we could talk to Sign Factory and join forces. They (Sign Factory) had two times the square footage we did (in Chicago). And the rent is the same as we had in Chicago.”

In early negotiations, both companies considered whether or not they could perform work for each other’s clients that have jobs where each other was located. As talks continued, a merger became a more logical option, Uditsky said.

“While we are in the same business, we have different strengths,” he said. “We had more (strengths) in the manufacturing and operations and they were better at service and installation.”

The merged companies are best able to serve their customers because of their ability to work throughout Wisconsin, northern Illinois and even other states, Uditsky said.

“The commute (to northern Illinois) can be the same or even better from Milwaukee,” he said. “And we want to keep pushing to bring more value to our customers.”

The company’s customers will also benefit because of the company’s merged fleet of installers, said Leonid Strupinsky, former president of Sign Factory who is now chief financial officer of The American Sign Factory.

American Sign & Lighting had 25 employees, and Sign Factory had 15 to 18 workers before the merger. Today, American Sign Factory has 45 employees, five of which have been hired within the last month.

Three of American Sign & Lighting’s sign fabricators moved from metro Chicago to Milwaukee, Uditsky said. Several other production workers have been hired, and the company is still looking for more employees.

The American Sign Co. employs 22 workers in Bensenville who work in sales, design and installation.

The American Sign Factory plans to grow its revenues tenfold in the next five years, Uditsky said.

“We want to be a national sign provider,” he said. “My partner (from American Sign & Lighting, Todd Johnson, now chief operations officer of The American Sign Co.) is a CPA, and I’m a commercial real estate attorney. We’re not getting into this to run a little mom-and-pop sign company.”

The American Sign Factory has identified two growth paths- growing into a dominant player within the Midwest and growing into a national player by shipping its signs to other markets. Signs that are shipped to other markets can be installed by other sign companies there, who work as subcontractors.

The American Sign Factory is now working to create a sales office in Indianapolis, and also hopes to create sales offices in Detroit and Minneapolis this year.

“We think we can grow to a $20 million company just servicing the Midwest,” he said.

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