Real Estate Investor Purchases First New Hampshire Digital Billboards from Watchfire Digital Outdoor

About nine years ago, Allen Kasiewicz sold his engineering company that he had owned for 18 years. Looking for a place to invest the proceeds of the sale, he decided to purchase real estate. One of the properties that he purchased was located on Route 3, the Daniel Webster Highway, in Belmont, N.H. The property is well located on one of the state's most heavily traveled, non-divided highways. Included with the purchase of this land were three billboards. Kasiewicz, who had never been involved in the Outdoor Industry, was looking for the most part at the future of the land and not as much at the potential the Billboard Business presented.

With three billboards and legal permits in hand, he used the income from the advertisers on two of the boards to cover the cost of his taxes and insurance for several years.  Other than mowing the brush once in awhile around the signs, there was little maintenance required and the same advertisers stayed on the boards for almost eight years.

In the summer of 2008, Mr. Kasiewicz, now of Trellis Realty Management, was faced with his property taxes doubling. At the same time, the long-term advertiser on his larger sign decided not to renew its lease as the economy had hurt its business. Mr. Kasiewicz decided to give the board a facelift by painting the sign and putting a small vinyl ad on it saying, "Available… Call Phone #."After hanging the vinyl he drove 42-miles home where he was greeted with four voice messages from businesses interested in leasing the billboard. This was followed by several more calls in the following days.

After some negotiation, Mr. Kasiewicz contracted with a popular local restaurant to lease the board with the requirement that he install lighting to illuminate it. By doing so, he was able to increase his revenue from this billboard. In the meantime, he was still receiving calls from other potential advertisers and then was even approached by a large billboard company about the possibility of selling his billboard permits or leasing the billboard to them. During the discussions, Mr. Kasiewicz gathered that they were interested in putting up a digital billboard at that location. This piqued his interest. He started to research the costs of putting up a digital billboard in order to develop a financial model and see if it would make sense to install his own digital billboard. In preparing his model, he narrowed his search for digital billboard manufacturers to two companies and asked for a turnkey proposal from both. After gathering the information and plugging it into his financial model, the project looked viable even under the worst-case scenario.

In conjunction with getting the proposals, Mr. Kasiewicz did his research with the city of Belmont as well as with the New Hampshire State DOT to make sure that it was legal to replace the existing billboard with the proposed digital billboard. Since there were no laws on the books prohibiting it, the project looked promising. However, he became aware of some potential law changes that would make it more difficult to place the digital board, so timing became a consideration. As a side note, in researching his permit, he found out that not only was his permit valid for this billboard, but the permit also allowed a double-sided structure. Unfortunately, he did not know this during his previous eight years of ownership. These discoveries made the financial plan look even more promising since he would be able to install a double-sided digital billboard and effectively generate twice the income.

Being a retired engineer, Mr. Kasiewicz paid close attention to detail in selecting the manufacturer that he felt would give him the best digital billboard for his investment. He considered how much attention the manufacturer would give him since he was a small operator who would probably only make one purchase. He decided to go with Watchfire Digital Outdoor predominantly for these reasons. While Watchfire can handle large clients and orders, they have a reputation for taking good care of the independent billboard operators as well. Mr. Kasiewicz spoke highly of Darrin Friskney, director of Watchfire Digital Outdoor, and the entire Watchfire team. After reviewing their turnkey proposal and comparing it to the competition, he was sold on Watchfire.

In an interview conducted with Darrin Friskney, it was apparent that Mr. Kasiewicz had done his homework and was asking all the right questions. According to Mr. Friskney, most prospects ask questions about size, price, quality of the image, and how long it takes to build the unit. While Mr. Kasiewicz asked these questions as well, he was also concerned with how the billboard was built, how many moving parts were included which could potentially break, and other similar technical questions. Since the billboard was going to be installed in New Hampshire, a major concern was how well it would stand up to the elements of rain, snow, and severe cold. Mr. Kasiewicz inspected the interior of both the billboards he was considering and compared the circuit board with exposed elements and five wires from each module he found in one board to the Watchfire board which had only two wires on each module and a protective silicone encapsulation, which seals out the rain, snow and salt.

After visiting both manufacturing plants,  Mr. Kasiewicz, decided to go with Watchfire Digital Outdoor, and moved quickly in order to get the new Digital Billboards up and running before any changes were made to the New Hampshire Law on Digital Signs. Watchfire worked with him to get the billboards up in the middle of a New Hampshire winter.  He has been satisfied with his purchase and strongly recommends the company.

These back-to-back billboards were built-to-order, measure 10'6" by 16' and are Watchfire's 19mm model. They are appealing to his advertisers since they can be updated quickly and remotely using a high-speed Internet connection. These boards pique the commuters' interest and Mr. Kasiewicz is having a lot of fun with his new career and business venture.

One of his advertisers, T-Bones, a restaurant chain that advertises on both of Kasiewicz' digital billboards, saw a 300 percent increase in business over the last year at their advertised Laconia location while business at their other locations remained flat.

Mr. Kasiewicz expects to invest in other digital billboard locations and his advice for other independent operators is to resist the temptation to buy the cheapest product and instead focus on quality, warranty, and who is going to provide the onsite service, startup and training.

Watchfire Digital Outdoor produces the industry's only 19mm pixel pitch billboard-which packs 768 LEDs into every sq. ft.-and is capable of producing 281 trillion colors, the most in the industry. It is the only manufacturer that fully encapsulates the LED module in a thick bed of silicone gel, which enables the LED boards to operate in extreme weather conditions: 180+ days completely submerged in water, 60 days in a salt-spray chamber, and temperatures ranging from -40° F to 120° F. In areas where heat and humidity are both high, or where winters are harsh, the silicone gel encapsulation protects the boards from moisture and salt, greatly improving projected reliability. All Watchfire boards feature unique extruded aluminum cabinetry and a streamlined electronics design that improves operation and simplifies maintenance. Watchfire's warranty, lead-times, customer support, and no-fee software are considered to be the best in the industry.

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