Connect with us

Metal Fabrication

Was I Making a Career out of One Project?

Sensible alternatives cut costs



I bid the Orem-based Utah Valley State College (UVSC) David O. McKay Events Center pylon sign five of the six times it went out for "Request for Bid." Finally, I made an appointment with James L. Michaelis, CPM, UVSC’s director of purchasing, and asked the golden question: "How much money do you have?" He responded that Utah County had given UVSC $175,000 for the marquee.

The architect’s drawings depicted a formed and poured concrete, three-sided structure to match the buildings; three four-line, wedge-base- lamp electronic message centers (EMCs); three sets of cast bronze letters to match the existing campus building identification; fluorescent lighting; computer-operator training; and a warranty. Not included was a separate line-item bid to demolish an existing billboard at the site and build a replacement nearby.

Clearly, something had to give, as the concrete structure alone cost $75,000; the EMCs, $223,000; installation, $10,000; cast bronze letters spelling "Utah Valley State College" and "McKay Events Center," $24,000; fluorescent lighting fixtures, $4,800; and computer training and warranty, $1,500. This totaled a whopping $338,300!

Was I destined to bid this five more times, or was there a way to achieve the $175,000 budget? At the time, two of my 10 children attended UVSC, and two others were at Brigham Young University. Pressure from them was motivation enough.

Why not a tilt-up structure?

Why a three-sided, 30 x 30-ft., cast-in-place concrete structure? Why not pre-cast the structure on the ground, then tilt it up? Thousands of dollars in concrete would be saved.


I likewise wondered whether we could receive a discount on the concrete from our friends at Geneva Rock Products. How about a discount from Fincon of Orem, UT, which was "on hold" from forming the walls for the new Micron plant in Alpine, UT? The architect wanted the rough-form look and the snap-tie cone holes to match the building. Could we get an approval to form on the ground and tilt up the structure and artificially form the holes? This alone would save $30,000.

Could we cut more costs?

Four lines on the electronic message centers? The McKay Events Center’s messages indicated the marquee could communicate effectively with three lines of copy. New specifications included three, single-faced, 17-in., alpha-numeric character, full-matrix (24 x 128 lamps), 16 shades of monochrome, 2.4-in. Spectra-lens® message centers with automatic dimming; time and temperature; and 7.2 wedge-base xenon lamps flush-mount installed.

How could we reduce the exorbitant cost of the electronic message center? One less line would save $56,000. Plus, as a regional manager of Trans-Lux Corp. (Norwalk, CT), I could arrange for a 40% discount from their subsidiary, Integrated Systems Engineering (Logan, UT), which would save another $67,000.

Further cost cuts

Richard Bona, president of Bona Signs (Springville, UT), and I opted for illuminated, pan-channel letters, but the architect was fixed and unmovable; he wanted bronze letters instead. It was time to solicit a donation for the college. Metal Letters (Lehi, UT), a bronze-fabrication facility, agreed to custom-form the letters for $100 each. This would save $16,000.


I had often used Nu-Art Mnf. (Salt Lake City) fluorescent fixtures while at Heath and Company. While on a plant tour to inspect aluminum spot welders for possible inclusion at Young Electric Sign Co., I had made friends with the general manager. The company agreed to provide the fixtures at wholesale cost, which saved another $2,400.

Who would handle installation?

Michaelis said Bona Sign Co. fabricated numerous signs at the college and highly recommended the company. I received three installation bids. Fortunately, Richard Bona was in an exceptionally charitable mood and provided an appealing subcontractor installation bid. A full-service sign company, Bona Sign began as a commercial shop with an outdoor plant, so a job involving an outdoor structure and panels comfortably fit its capabilities.

I agreed to install the EMC computer equipment and work with his installers, even though I had recently resigned from Trans-Lux. I donated my time and materials from my company, BEE™.

Pylon sign bid: $174,990

I’m convinced $174,990 was the only conforming pylon sign bid that could win. YESCO withdrew its nonconforming, smaller electric lamp matrix, lower, overall bid. Our total overall bid was $194,876.


BEE and UVSC College Relations arranged for a special lighting ceremony with Utah County commissioners for turning on the main disconnect. The college-relations department provided a printed program that listed the suppliers. I wrote press releases and provided photographs for local papers. This was a great way to thank the suppliers for their donations.




Most Popular