Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / PlainView LED President and CEO Todd Plain talks about the company's new manufacturing facility in front of a couple of billboards assembled by the Chattanooga company.

Todd Plain says that moving into a new production site during the coronavirus pandemic wasn't exactly the way he planned his Chattanooga digital sign company's expansion.

"We closed on the property when the pandemic came down," he said. "We felt that we'd just keep the pedal down."

The idea, said the chief executive of PlainView LED, was that the company would be ready when the business came back. And it is bouncing back, he said.

"We're having tours every day," Plain said at the company's multimillion-dollar renovated facility on Belle Arbor Avenue off Amnicola Highway.

PlainView bought a 10,500-square-foot building that also includes 5.3 acres. It purchased the site from American Mechanized Technology LLC in March for $925,000, according to the Hamilton County Register of Deeds.

Last year, the company had considered assembling its electronic displays in Chattanooga in a 10,000-square-foot factory the company was planning to build off of Bonny Oaks Drive. But the opportunity to buy and renovate the existing facility emerged.

PlainView LED assembles the large, sometimes mammoth, digital billboards that motorists see along roads. PlainView LED also makes digital business signs, scoreboards, and electronic message centers using the same product and parts of its Signature Series LED Smart Module, Plain said.

At its new facility, PlainView personnel can build, hang and test both small-format digital information signs per order as well as the larger billboards, according to the company.

The company currently employs 13 workers, but Plain said he is adding five more amid the expansion.

Derek Markey, PlainView's chief operating officer, said the pause in the economy due to the coronavirus in the spring gave the company time to devote attention to improvements, inventory and streamline its assembly process.

"We expanded our operations even as others slowed down," he said.

Mike Baskette, the company's sale manager, said the facility is located in one of the city's "opportunity zones."

Tucked into the tax reforms adopted by Congress in late 20117 was a provision aimed at helping funnel significant amounts of money for developments and businesses into some distressed areas of town for patient investors.

some text
Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / President and CEO Todd Plain talks about the different pixel pitches offered at PlainView LED.

The tax law offers an incentive for those realizing capital gains to defer and limit the taxes normally due on such income if it is invested in designated opportunity zones and held in that investment for a number of years.

According to PlainView, dealers and billboard operators already have installed PlainView products in 10 states across the country.

Plain, who started his company about 16 years ago, said that he knew a decade ago when the first digital signs began to hit the market that the technology is where the industry was going, and he wanted to be part of it.

"After selling digital signs for the past 10 years all over the United States, I'm excited to expand our company and begin assembling our own digital signs in my hometown of Chattanooga," he said.

The new facility gives the company the ability to assemble in the United States and not have to import from other countries such as China, Plain said.

The company has developed its own proprietary software called Spotlight. The software allows users to enjoy a more intuitive approach to creating and scheduling their content on both large and small format digital signs, according to PlainView.

It has developed an Underwriters Laboratories-approved smart module, which enables the company to seamlessly build its digital billboards, business signs, and other goods using the same product and parts, the company said. Some 396 modules make up a 48-foot by 14-foot billboard, according to PlainView.

Plain said that the shorter the distance between diodes, the clearer the picture.

"There's no limit to the size," he said, adding that customers can come to PlainView's new facility and see and feel the smart modules and signs. Such signs can range from $2,500 to $40,000, the company CEO said.

Plain said the signs and billboards give operators a lot of flexibility for changing advertisements. The software can be operated off a cellphone and from long distances, he said.

"It's all in the cloud," he said.

Contact Mike Pare at Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.