Reinventing the sign to benefit local communities

Sometimes a dealmaking investment is about more than ownership — minority or otherwise. But it always creates opportunity, often by solving someone else’s problem.

It’s difficult to get people excited or to generate healthy profit margins from “me too” businesses. We created Catalyst Experiential to help communities by creating dog parks, EMS Stations, community landmarks and other things communities want and need but can’t or don’t want to raise taxes to fund. Visual communication technology is integrated into every project, including displays that feature community messages as well as advertising that enables us to develop meaningful community projects at no cost to taxpayers. This new form of public/private partnership has the potential to solve the problem that signs were not aesthetically pleasing, while also fulfilling the growing wants and needs of many communities.

As an example, we are nearing construction on an EMS Station in Mount Laurel. Mount Laurel is notoriously anti-billboard. In 2013, the township successfully defended its ban on billboards from a company that was challenging its zoning laws in order to install several billboards. We worked with the township to design a state-of-the-art EMS facility that has visual displays integrated into the façade. The displays add to the building’s architecture, and will also be used for township and community communication.

As a result, the facility was unanimously approved and will be completed by mid-2020. Our unique approach enabled us to sit down with emergency responders and ask what they needed in a facility. Besides the obvious proximity to the community, they brought up features such as separate male and female dormitories, drive-through vehicle bays with garage doors on both sides of the building for fast entry and exit in either direction, and electric car charging stations and solar panels to reduce the property’s energy footprint. We were able to incorporate every wish-list item into the final design.

Mount Laurel and other townships are championing this new form of public/private partnership. By working with communities to understand their needs first, and working with them to develop solutions, we are helping towns stand out in the suburban sea of sameness while fulfilling vital needs through the convergence of community and communication.

Our entire business model is predicated upon solving problems. As a result, Catalyst is currently working on numerous projects in major U.S. markets, and will shortly be breaking ground on one of the most feature-laden dog parks in the U.S. Every structure has an integrated display that is designed in an interesting shape that contributes to the overall aesthetic appeal of the structure.

Thaddeus J. Bartkowski, CEO of Catalyst Experiential, is a leading executive in the media industry with an extensive track record of accomplishment. He has spent close to two decades in the industry, having built and successfully divested multiple companies serving various parts of North America. The most recent company owned some of the most valuable out-of-home media assets in North America, which under his leadership grew from a concept to an enterprise value more than $100mm.