By Kevin D. Thompson
The Palm Beach Post, Fla.
ROYAL PALM BEACH
You’ve heard the saying, “What’s in a name?”
Well, for Annette Southern, the more relevant question is: What’s in a sign?
As director of project management for Atlas Sign Industries, a national sign manufacturing company in Riviera Beach, Southern oversees a group of 17 project managers and coordinators.
Their job is to make sure the signs for such companies as Starbucks, Home Depot and Wells Fargo are in the right place and can be seen by their current — and potential — customers.
Southern, a 51-year-old Royal Palm Beach resident, has been with Atlas Sign for 15 years and is president of the Southern States Sign Association.
Question: How did you get into the sign business?
Answer: I started 21 years ago. I had a neighbor who I grew up with who owned (a sign company) in West Palm Beach and I was friends with his daughter. When I decided to go back into the workforce after my daughter was born, he asked me to come work for the company in sales. I knew nothing about signs. They handed me the Palm Beach County sign code on my first day and said, ‘Learn this.’ I didn’t have a clue.
Q: Do you find many women in the industry?
A: Women make great project managers because we’re very organized. Some of the best project managers I come across are women. There’s a lot of women in the industry (but) not in the plant building the signs. That’s just one part of our industry.
Q: Why are signs so important?
A: Most people take signs for granted. Without a sign, businesses couldn’t operate because we wouldn’t know they were there. When we see a sign on the front of a building, we form an immediate opinion about that business. If that sign is run down, we think that business is run down. If that sign is attractive to us, then that business is attractive to us.
Q: The Royal Palm Beach Village Council recently denied IHOP a key sign variance it said it needed to move into the Coral Sky Plaza. You weren’t happy with that decision. Tell me why.
A: I knew the client would not sign a lease or move forward with that location without a full sign package and that included the monument sign. I didn’t feel the request for a variance was an unreasonable request.
Q: Will the village’s decision keep IHOP from moving to Royal Palm Beach?
A: Right now, IHOP is not moving forward with having their lease finalized until they can get confirmation that a monument sign can be placed out front.
Q: Since that vote, the council has decided to review its dated sign ordinances. What are your thoughts on that?
A: I think it’s about time. I don’t believe the village has updated its sign code in decades. As we’ve all seen, there’s been huge development, so their sign code does not meet the need of the development they’ve been approving all these years. I’m very pleased and I’m glad that I was able to have an influence.