Whether it's teaching his 6-year-old twins to play softball or pitching a solution to a potential customer's problem, Jim Rankin, an outside salesperson for Colonial Electric Supply, King of Prussia, Pa., keeps at it until the job is done.

Undeterred by the two electrical distributors less than a mile from Capital Manufacturing, a sign maker in Colmer, Pa., Rankin kept plugging away and calling on Capital.

“I was doing about $30,000 annually with Capital,” said Rankin. “But one day they gave me a blueprint for a sign to be constructed for the new Houston Texans football stadium.”

Capital had been awarded the sign contract for the new Reliant Stadium. The specs were interesting: letters 5-feet high, 5-feet deep and 80 feet off the ground and lit by fluorescent lamps. Looking for ways to make the sign more maintenance-free and energy-efficient, Capital turned to Rankin.

Rankin asked Osram-Sylvania Lamp Rep Kevin Chambers to review the specs, and Chambers saw an opportunity for his company's Icetron lamp and ballast system.

The Icetron lamp makes light without using electrodes, which essentially means nothing in the lamp wears out and boosts the average lamp life to 100,000 hours — more than ten years of continuous operation.

The energy-efficient lamp-and-ballast system produces up to 76 lumens per watt and offers white light similar to metal halide with superior color rendition, better lumen maintenance and instant on/restart features. Installations include situations where relamping is inconvenient or expensive.

Armed with his Icetron sales pitch, product spec sheets and the Sylvania rep, Rankin easily convinced Capital of the system's merits. Selling the idea to the Reliant Stadium design engineers was not as easy.

Although the stadium designers liked the lamps, they had to consider that the stadium naming rights were only contracted for a year. With the possibility of a new sign annually, the decision was a financial one. Although the Icetron system pays for itself in less than three years, its initial cost is two to three times more than a traditional fluorescent system.

Icetron was not the way to go. Still, Rankin had laid the groundwork with Capital for another blueprint, this one for 15-foot high neon letters at the new San Antonio Spurs arena.

Capital decided to attempt another spec change. This time Osram Sylvania's East Coast Engineering Representative Dirk Hinterleiter reviewed the specs and offered the Icetron system 10-year warranty.

Capital made a model of the sign using neon lights on one half and Icetron on the other. The color and quality of the light, low maintenance, energy-savings and the warranty persuaded the designers to change the sign specs for the SBC Center. And, Rankin's persistence paid off.


Based in Philadelphia, Linda Schalles is a marketing consultant specializing in the electrical industry.