Sign of the times? Yesco manufacturing shrinks

Wizard of Oz slot machine signs stacked outside of the St. George Yesco facility, St. George, Utah, May 1, 2014 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — On April 16, Young Electric Sign Company, YESCO, reduced its staff by about 73 percent at its St. George facility after laying off 40 employees and closing its manufacturing department. While YESCO will still offer service and installations throughout Southern Utah, the production of signs is currently shut down.

The company recently implemented new strategies to boost productivity — one called the four disciplines of execution — and the changes really proved themselves within the system, said Operations Manager Neil Hawley. As a result, YESCO  increased production abilities based on cross-training, as well as other methods, which left the company with an overflow of production that wasn’t needed.

“We had to reduce some of our needs here in St. George. We build signs from the West Coast to London. We do all of our electronic billboards out of Logan,” Hawley said. “The majority of the stuff you find on Las Vegas Strip — all the big stuff is all ours. I think we are the second largest importer of LEDs in the United States.”

Primarily, manufacturing did not stay alive locally because St. George is not a metropolitan area where a production facility can stand on its own based on sales. The Young brothers decided to start consolidating to become more profitable, or “lean and mean,” and keep Phoenix, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City as the main production facilities, Hawley said.

Inside the manufacturing department at Yesco, St. George, Utah, May 1, 2014 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

“We don’t need this size of a building, with two of the largest cranes in Southern Utah — they’re larger than the Army’s cranes that lift the tanks up,” Hawley said. “The idea is to run lean and mean, scale down to about a building half this size.”

Yesco’s manufacturing plant was originally built in St. George in order to augment the company’s Las Vegas facility. At the time, around 2005, increased economic development, including high-rise hotels and condominiums in Las Vegas, necessitated expansion, so Yesco decided to build in St. George, said Scott Hirschi, Director of Site Select Plus.

The 56,000-square-foot building, located at Fort Pierce Industrial Park, 4679 S. River Rd., is on the market to be sold, but Yesco is not desperate to sell right now, Hawley said.

Yesco Production Manager Patrick Braley was transplanted from the company’s Las Vegas facility to St. George about a year ago to help streamline the manufacturing department. Native to Southern Utah, he was closer to home working at the local facility rather than commuting five hours a day between St. George and Las Vegas.

Some of the Casino signs Yesco has built, St. George, Utah, May 1, 2014 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

“I kind of knew something was on the brink of happening. I’m in productions and I created a production schedule. We were sent rush jobs because our team was extremely efficient; if they needed it really quick they would send it to us,” Braley said. “Toward the end, the work started coming in less, and when we got down to three weeks and then two weeks, everyone started asking, ‘What are they going to do? Who are they going to keep?’”

The choice of which location to cut down was between Phoenix, Ariz., and St. George. So why St. George? “I asked the higher officials, but I’ve never been given a straight answer,” Braley said. “As far as I’m aware, Phoenix was never profitable.”

The closing of Yesco’s manufacturing doesn’t  signify a loss of confidence or interest when it comes to new businesses being attracted to St. George. In fact, Washington County is seeing an increase in interest from incoming businesses — more now than it has seen in the last 20 years, St. George Mayor Jon Pike said.

“I wouldn’t say it’s going to have a huge effect on our economy,” Pike said. “It’s definitely a lost opportunity. We hate to lose them.”

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  • Biden 2016 May 3, 2014 at 11:59 am

    Glad Obama’s leading us full steam ahead out of the recession. I’m really excited about the 1/10 of 1 percent growth we have had lately. I especially look forward to his new economic growth from the middle out program that he just announced. Obama is an economic genius.

    • Applejack May 4, 2014 at 2:00 pm

      Um you might want to actually pay attention to your surroundings, there are jobs everywhere here. Even the local Republican loving newspaper “The Spectrum” admitted that unemployment was at pre recession levels a couple of months ago. Read and learn before commenting next time please,. Thank you 🙂

  • airbender May 3, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    we need golf courses and tacky sub-developments here – not industry, manufacturing or tech jobs.

    more sterioded bike and foot racers helps also.

    • Obama's gonna take our guns!!! May 3, 2014 at 8:55 pm

      Figure the whole town could just be converted to a big nursing home? …

  • Getoverit May 4, 2014 at 9:47 am

    A private company does what makes economic sense for them, and people have to slam (insert the politician or party you don’t like here).
    It’s always a steady diet of “somebody else is responsible for making everything better…..but don’t change anything.”
    That line of discourse gets so old.

  • ExYESCO May 4, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    Having worked for YESCO in St George for the last 6 years, I’ll say that we WERE running lean and mean, and consistently exceeding profit projections by hundreds of thousands of dollars, month after month. Our operations manager Neil Hawley, was monumental in making that possible, I have nothing but respect and admiration for that man.

    The fact that YESCO corporate chose to keep the Phoenix plant open (which I understand has never been a profitable operation) over St George only confirms to me how inept corporate is at understanding it’s own operations. At a corporate level, YESCO is the most willfully mismanaged company I’ve ever witnessed. You couldn’t even imagine unless you had seen it for yourself. Ultimately, they closed an extremely profitable plant and took a gamble on one that historically has never been profitable. I predict that decision will be haunting them a year from now when the bankers come calling yet AGAIN.

    The bottom line: Six years ago YESCO had 11 plants in operation. Today they have only 3 left. In my opinion this was not simply a “tightening” of the belt. It was an act of desperation by a company that is going (and has been going for years) down in flames. Like an airliner going down, and in an effort to jettison weight, they have mistakenly thrown the engine overboard. A year from now they will have begun to see what that decision has cost them. Stay sharp Phoenix….you’re next on the chopping block.

    • Obamas gonna steal the guns!!! May 4, 2014 at 11:37 pm

      The way I see it, it’s the employee’s fault for the closing, because they refused to work for the same wage as a China man … we’re talkin 35 cents an hour. This is the new normal.

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