BYRON -- Every couple of weeks, dozens of black letters defy gravity and find their way onto a marquee along I-75.
Individually, the assortment of consonants and vowels mean nothing. Collectively, the 12-inch letters form a giant text message.
It can be seen daily by more than 71,200 cars, trucks and other vehicles in the long shadows of Exit 149.
There are strong verbs and sharp adjectives, critical rhymes to lament tough times. Although the words change at least once a month, the message is always clear.
The folks who work at Premier Platforms do not care for the policies of President Barack Obama.
Sometimes the sign’s words are original. Other times they are borrowed from the rhetoric and talking points of a political season.
But, as a small business owner in a stumbling economy, David Cooper calls the past three-and-a-half years a “gut punch.’’
This is his way to punch back.
Cooper is president and CEO of Premier Platforms and editor-in-chief of every word that appears on the sign. He is not a member of some Super PAC or part of some right wingding conspiracy. He is neither a racist nor a radical.
He is just an ordinary guy from the heartland who believes the country has jumped the tracks. He is exercising his American right to free speech. It is his campaign of hope and changing font.
Although Cooper is only one man with one vote, his messages are capable of reaching the more than 2.1 million vehicles (according to the DOT) that travel this busy section of I-75 every month. He also utilizes the sign at his Conyers location. It has equally high visibility from I-20 near West Avenue (Exit 80), just 32 miles from downtown Atlanta.
So he speaks out.
DON’T TELL OBAMA WHAT COMES AFTER A TRILLION.
IF YOU’RE NOT OUTRAGED YOU’RE NOT PAYING ATTENTION.
WE BUILT THIS BUSINESS, MR. OBAMA. OVER 960 PAYROLLS MET.
Premier Platforms sells, rents and services aerial platforms, carry deck cranes, forklifts and reach forklifts. Cooper started the business from his home in Snellville in 1994 and was a one-man operation during the early years of the company. He worked on the equipment, delivered the machinery to his customers. He did all of the accounting, often working 80 hours a week.
In 18 years, the business has expanded to include operations in Byron, Conyers and Adairsville, with 27 employees on the payroll. The Middle Georgia location opened in Perry in 2003, then moved to Byron three years later.
At first, Cooper used his marquees to promote the company and advertise specials. Then he and his wife, Cheryl, began waging a good-natured war of words on the signs. After he posted a few lighthearted comments about women, she demanded equal time.
But in 2009, not long after Obama took office, the signs began to march to a political drumbeat.
The Byron sign is 8 feet wide, 5 feet tall and 18 feet off the ground. (Of course, there is no need for a ladder, with so many aerial platforms around.)
It rarely goes unnoticed by motorists who steal a glance across the median, even while racing northbound and southbound at 70 mph.
“Most of the feedback we get is from people who tell us they love it,’’ said Brian Lynn, the operations manager in Byron. “We get calls from people who drive between Macon and Warner Robins every day. They ask us to keep doing it. About the biggest complaint we get is that we don’t change the sign often enough.’’
Lynn said several inspired travelers have tapped the brakes and pulled off I-75, making the maze of right turns to find the business a half-mile below the Byron exit. They walk through the door to shake his hand, not to purchase an aerial lift.
Others have called or left voice messages with suggestions for future submissions. In Conyers, a woman once baked cookies and took them to the Premier Platforms office to show her appreciation.
“I can count on two hands the number of complaints I’ve gotten,’’ said Cooper. One came from a man who claimed to be with the NAACP and took exception to what was posted.
“He said he was bringing a group the next Friday to picket the business, but they never showed up,’’ Cooper said. “We were ready for them. We were going to picket the picketers.’’
Lynn said a man from a work crew once walked over to the fence and told him the sign crossed the line of good taste. When Lynn refused to take it down, the man departed by issuing him a rather unflattering salute.
With 52 days until the election, Cooper is quietly confident the life cycle of his Obama signs may be nearing an end. He senses what he calls a “resurgence of common sense” in the electorate.
He believes those voters will rise up, just like his signs.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org.