SOUTHINGTON — On Monday afternoon, Gov. Ned Lamont walked past a van wrapped with a blue logo featuring a peacock, the mascot of St. Peter’s University in New Jersey. Then he walked past a vintage truck, which boasted rows of beer taps along its sides. It will soon bear the logo of a local craft beer brewery.
Both vehicles were parked along the manufacturing floor of the Sign Pro building on Westfield Drive.
The 40,000-square-foot Plantsville facility has been in operation for four years. Last year, it became fully solar powered. Lamont was touring it to advance a “Connecticut Made” agenda.
“This is the coolest damn company around,” Lamont said to Sign Pro employees who gathered in front of a podium on the manufacturing floor. “It’s companies like this that are the future of the state.”
Richard C. Mullins, Sign Pro’s vice president of business development, said the company has been in business for close to three decades and has nearly 70 employees.
Mullins and other company executives support legislation that would give local companies preference on state contracts.
“These companies are taxpayers in our community and we want to have the opportunity to provide work within our own state using taxpayer funds,” he said.
Sign Pro designs and build signs. It also provides clients with information on local permits and regulations.
Projects the company is working on include a state office building in Hartford, work for the Coca-Cola plant in South Windsor and a new gateway sign for the University of Connecticut’s Storrs campus.
The company also collaborated on New Britain’s Bee Hive Bridge project.
Peter Rappoccio, the company’s president and founder, said the facility was designed with lean management and processing in mind, “for flow and efficiency.” The company is planning to eventually add a second shift work force.
“That’s basically to stay ahead of the demand,” Rappoccio said. He said the industry standard to complete projects from concept to finished sign is eight to 10 weeks. Sign Pro aims for two weeks.
Rappoccio said he was delighted by Lamont’s comments.
“I think everyone wants to see Connecticut businesses grow,” he said.
Lamont spoke with Myra Gratton, of Bristol, who works as an express designer. He asked what background she needed to be hired.
“Creativity,” Gratton said. When Lamont asked what tools designers use, Gratton told him, “A little bit of everything.” She said Adobe Illustrator is their primary software tool.
Gratton has worked at Sign Pro for almost two years now. She enjoys the creative freedom and described the company as being “like a family.”
State Rep. Liz Linehan, D-Cheshire, who did not attend the tour, but was reached by phone afterward, is hopeful legislation that would require state agencies to consider a contract’s net economic impact on the local economy will pass this year.
Awarding contracts to local companies keeps state residents employed, generates payroll tax revenue and helps other businesses, like restaurants and gas stations.
“These are all things that would contribute to the economy,” Linehan said.
State Rep. John Fusco, R-Southington, said he also supports helping companies like Sign Pro be competitive, but feels the problem is the cost of doing business in Connecticut.
“It makes our businesses unable to be competitive — that’s the first problem,” Fusco said. “The cost of the state becomes prohibitive for them to move forward and be successful.”