Vendor Spotlight: Hightech Signs

Leah Etling, Running USA
No Source
July 18, 2017

Nearly 30 years of quality and consistency with a focus on the endurance event industry


Next year, Hightech Signs will celebrate 30 years in business. The Fort Wayne, Indiana based family owned company has always had its feet planted firmly in the running industry.

President/owner Doug Abramowski runs the company, which has three locations (Grand Rapids and Indianapolis are the other two) and was founded by his father in 1988.

“He ran track in high school and cross country in college.  He has run many races including two marathons and two triathlons.  His love for running and the sport continues today.  He seeks to provide top level support to our customers many of whom are also Running USA members,” said Craig Ottinger, Director of Operations for Hightech Signs.

Ottinger, who has been with the company for four years, was bit by the running bug for the first time himself recently after working for many years in the endurance space.

“During the 2017 Running USA Conference (in Orlando) I decided that I was going to run a 5K and now five months later I have run numerous 5K and 10K events and just added a quarter marathon to that list.  Currently, I am very excited to be training to run the 2017 B.A.A. Half Marathon in October,” he noted.

While Hightech Signs makes signage for all sorts of industries and events, running is an important piece of its business and has been since the beginning.

“We have been working with the event community for almost three decades now. We know how important it is that your signs arrive on time.  While each event is important, we are proud to measure our relationships with customers, associates and suppliers in terms of decades not events,” Ottinger explained. Especially impressive is the company's 90 percent customer retention rate for recurring events.

“We believe that relationships that span decades spring from our values.  We are committed to doing the right thing, being easy to work with and enjoying work and life.  Our commitment to you is that your job will be there on time and it will be right. There are plenty of other things that a race director needs to worry about while preparing for their race. Our job is to make sure that signs are not one of them.”

Abramowski kindly answered our questions about his work in the signage world. Read on to learn more about Hightech Signs, including their innovative work on customized bib boxes:


RUSA: Tell us about Hightech Signs and what you do for the running industry?


Abramowski: Hightech Signs is a family owned business specializing in the production of high quality large format digital graphics and signs for running events across the country.  We excel in the area of logistics and getting signs to events around the country on-budget and most importantly on-time. We are grateful to produce and ship signs for great events in and outside of the running community.  We have nearly three decades of experience in the sign business and several of our team members have 15+ years of catering to the print needs of the running community.


RUSA: What things about Hightech Signs make you stand out from your signage competitors?


Abramowski: Our depth of knowledge in the area of logistics helps us stand out in a crowded field of folks who make signs.  We work to keep all of our costs competitive.  We are able to do this by producing our high quality signs in a region of the country with an incredibly low cost of living. Then we ship from our centralized location to points across the country.


RUSA: Tell us about a running related project that included a unique challenge and describe how you attacked it?


Abramowski: I would definitely point to our customizable, fully printed bib boxes as a unique challenge that we attacked.  At our first Running USA expo, a great customer of ours brought this challenge to us.  They said that custom branded bib boxes would be a great product to offer. We then went about looking at bib pick up areas. We noticed that the bibs were organized in beat up cardboard boxes. It struck us that this would be a great activation point.  We came back to our production center and started prototyping boxes until we came up with our current non-collapsible bib box.  We have sent those out to big events like the Gasparilla Distance Classic, RAM Racing Hot Chocolate events and various event timers across the country with great success.  We have made a few modifications along the way as we learn and grow, and a year later we had developed and released the collapsible bib box.  Our bib boxes addressed a customer challenge to provide a great activation point at bib pick up.


RUSA: What are some of the cutting edge trends in signage that you are delivering to clients now?


Abramowski: I would say that large 3D printing is a cutting edge trend.  It is so new that few folks are using it to create that wow experience for clients.  This technology can create structures, shoes, and letters via 3D printing.  These are not small items like a shoe box.  These items are truly large format.  Without a single seam, we can provide a 3D piece that is almost 6’ tall x 5’ wide x 4’ deep.  These pieces can then be assembled to make them even larger and can be wrapped just like a car.  This technology is accessible and available to the market.  While not cheap, it is definitely cutting edge.


RUSA: Signs and being green are often not compatible. Do you have eco-friendly solutions and if so what makes them so?


Abramowski: Being green and responsible has been a decade long pursuit for Hightech Signs.  Every printer decision, ink and material we use is assessed in light of its effect on the environment.  All of our new printers are low impact printing solutions from eco-solvent to UV inks to our water-based ink systems.  We are looking to conserve, reuse and recycle everything we can in the process of running our business and producing signs.  We have moved from recycling bags of cans and bottle to recycling dumpsters full of card board and various recyclable materials.  We also have partnered with local recycling groups to minimize our carbon footprint.


We are partnering with our customers to develop new purposes for sign materials after the signs have outlived their original event or branding purpose. We are able to work with organizations that repurpose banner material to make new items out of what otherwise would have been discarded.  We are also working with races to repurpose some of their old coroplast into new bib boxes, and creative box solutions that benefit the customer and reduce that which heads for the landfill.



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