Danville sign company hiring, prepares for new home

Tracy Moss, staff writer,

DANVILLE — Watchfire Signs has launched a hiring blitz as the digital-sign manufacturer gears up this week for the ground breaking on a 127,000-square-foot addition that will bring all its employees and operations into one facility with room to grow.

“Things have been good for us in the last several years, and the business has expanded significantly. The expansion will give us a lot more manufacturing space and bring all our employees under one roof,” said Darrin Friskney, vice president of sales for Watchfire, which will officially break ground on its expansion project Thursday afternoon at the company’s headquarters at 1015 Maple St., Danville.

In the last several years, Watchfire has experienced significant growth in its electronic billboard manufacturing business, outgrowing the main facility on Maple Street and spreading its 250 employees across four Danville locations.

Watchfire designs, engineers and manufactures LED signs and billboards and sells its products throughout the United States and in a number of other countries. The business has built more than 40,000 LED signs and billboards since 1998 and will build about 6,000 this year alone, according to Friskney. It’s a vertically integrated company, meaning Watchfire designs its products, develops its own software, manufactures the signs and billboards, ships them and provides customer support, all from its Danville locations.

The company is hiring in all parts of the company, from internships to full-time positions, Friskney said.

According to AnnMarie Cross, human resources manager at Watchfire, the company has posted and filled a record number of internships and co-op positions in electronics, computer programming, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, accounting and other areas, and is continuing to hire interns, co-op employees and full-time workers to handle demand.

Internships are paid positions requiring 10-15 hours per week, and co-op positions are full-time and are designed for currently enrolled students earning college credit. Watchfire also anticipates hiring 10 to 15 new regular full-time employees through 2012 in non-factory production roles that would be ideal for recent college graduates. The company is recruiting people with engineering or technical degrees for full-time positions including process engineer, field install technician and help desk engineer.

The expansion is expected to be done early next year and will add more than 110,000 square feet of manufacturing space at the main facility on Maple Street as well as an additional 17,000 square feet of office space.

The company, then known as Time-O-Matic, has made outdoor electronic signs since 1932 and LED signs since 1986. The signs range from 4 feet high to billboards that are 20 feet high and 60 feet wide. The smaller, on-premise signs can run video, while digital billboards feature still images and the ability to rotate multiple advertisements or messages. Signs are all controlled by the owners over the Internet using a broadband connection that’s used to upload content.

“This facility will help us to (manufacture them) more efficiently,” Friskney said. “We are building a high-tech product that you don’t always see every day. ”

Jeff Koebrich said the company’s recent growth has been driven by various factors, including the reliability of the product.

He said heat and moisture are the “big enemy” of electronic signs, but Watchfire has designed a product that holds up well. Watchfire has labs that allow them to duplicate the heat and moisture conditions the signs will endure over time and test and improve their products to withstand the elements. Energy efficiency is also important now, he said, so the company has high-efficiency power supplies that meets certain environmental standards, and Watchfire also is on the leading edge of the very best LED technology, which is constantly improving, Koebrich said. The appearance of the signs are high quality, he said, and represent brands well and age gracefully.

“And that’s something that’s a calling card for our company,” he said.

Watchfire expansion

Watchfire officials are breaking ground on Thursday on a 127,000-square-foor expansion of its digital-sign-manufacturing business on Maple Street in Danville. The company is also expanding its manufacturing capacity and workforce.

Job descriptions and applications for open positions are available at watchfiresigns.com/why-watchfire/careers-at-watchfire.


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