GRAND BLANC TOWNSHIP (WJRT) (03/07/18) - It's the ultimate indicator that steers us in the right direction.
"As you're driving down the road, you always see these big green signs that tell you where you're going. Well, somebody has to make them and we're lucky enough to be able to do it," said Michigan Highway Signs owner Tom Peake.
Since 1998, Michigan Highway Signs has been making thousands upon thousands of signs every year. While primarily in the Mitten, the Genesee County company's products can be found throughout several other parts of the Midwest as well.
"We've replaced, not only manufactured and replaced every single sign on I-75 from Exit 1 all the way up to Exit 392 in the Soo. Every single sign has come out of this shop," said Peake.
From its origins in Lansing and Utica, Michigan Highway Signs relocated in 2004 to its current home on South Saginaw Street in Grand Blanc Township.
"We're rocking and rolling from 7:00 in the morning until 5:00 at night. Chopping, applying reflective sheeting, making the signs, doing anything we can do to get these signs out the door as fast as we can," said Peake.
A decision to bring all aspects of production into Michigan has been the key factor in fulfilling those orders quickly, typically within a few days.
"If we had a problem, it was a week turnaround. From our perspective, it enabled us to go to the next level," said Peake.
Michigan Highway Signs has been a big part of Peake's family for more than 35 years now. It began with with a focus on installation.
"We started in 1982 with my dad and his wife. They started it. My brother and I have gotten into it. They've since retired which is great. We've got our third generation coming in," said Peake.
Michigan's winters provide constant wear and tear. That's resulted in a heavy workload, delaying some retirement plans.
"There's probably going to be a stretch of 120 miles in Michigan will redo every year, so there's a continual cycle," said Peake.
That cycle has allowed for more job creation.
"At the peek season, summertime, we're at 90 employees between the shop and out on the road," said Peake.
Over the years, sign making trends have changed a bit. MHS has partnered with 3M in efforts to make them more visible, all with driver safety in mind.
"They've made it twice as bright. When you're driving down, the signs now, instead of seeing it at 300 feet in front of you, you can see it at 1,000 feet in front of you and easily make it out the text," said Peake.
MHS is already working on it's next, big project.
"The next big thing is messages hidden in the signs for vehicles, autonomous driving. Autonomous vehicles will be able to read an embedded sign in here, so it'll help the vehicle know where to go. I would never have thought of anything like that," said Peake.