There’s a good reason for the sign and graphics industry to pay attention to the North Carolina state legislature and one representative in particular. Representative Crutchfield was sworn in in early 2023, representing the 83rd district. So why does this matter?
Others might know Rep. Crutchfield better as Kevin, owner of Casco Signs Inc., near Charlotte and former president of the Southern States Sign Association (SSSA).
His knowledge of the sign industry and small business in general has already led to Rep. Crutchfield drafting and introducing several bills that deal with sign-specific issues.
One requires that permits be mailed or emailed rather than requiring they be picked up in person. This bill was making its way through committees at press time. That bill (HB 132) not only impacts sign permits, but other businesses like a restaurant who no longer has to drive to Raleigh to get their liquor license.
Another bill (HB 771) introduced by Rep. Crutchfield requires that local jurisdictions in North Carolina provide compensation to businesses whose non-conforming signs have to be brought into compliance.
Soon after his election, Rep. Crutchfield and another member formed the Small Business Caucus to focus on issues impacting America’s job generators. While some of his fellow legislators understand issues impacting small businesses, “I doubt they understand it to the level that I do,” he said.
It was that understanding and a desire for change that led him to run for office in the first place.
Rep. Crutchfield has been involved in the county Republican party for the last several years. “Instead of being on the outside complaining,” he said, “I wanted to be on the inside to do something about it.”
When redistricting occurred, his local party asked him to consider serving.
He also was in the enviable position that he could turn over most of the operations of Casco to his family. His three sons handle the day-to-day while his wife oversees the office. That allows him to treat his job as legislator as a full-time one, though it is technically part-time.
“I go in to Casco on Fridays and do a few accounting things,” Rep. Crutchfield told me in a recent phone call. “If the numbers look good, I go back to Raleigh.”
While at the state capitol, he brings his knowledge of the sign and graphics industry and his understanding of the importance of association involvement in legislation.
During his term as SSSA president, the South Carolina legislature enacted a requirement that sign contractors be licensed in concrete and structural steel. The International Sign Association (ISA) and SSSA worked together to show legislators the folly of the bill and successfully got changes passed.
Associations like ISA and its affiliates can educate and rally members—and that holds sway with legislators, according to Rep. Crutchfield. “Anytime you can find something and support it,” he said, “it helps me in the committee process.”
It also provides a perspective that he may not have personally. He cites one bill in which a local district attorney pointed out needed a minor tweak.
“I don’t deal in your sandbox every day. I need you to come to you with these policy issues,” said Rep. Crutchfield. “It’s the same thing in signage. I can take all of that and use it to build better bills.”
He also realizes that an issue that impacts his sign company likely affects others. “If we can work on solutions across the board, it becomes better for all of us,” said Rep. Crutchfield.
While the GOP in the North Carolina legislature has a super-majority, Rep. Crutchfield believes it is important to work across the aisle.
In his role as freshmen leader of the Republican caucus, he has hosted events to get to know those on the other side of the aisle. “It’s beneficial to establish relationships,” he said.
Having friends makes policy a little easier.”
It’s great to have a legislator in office who is knowledgeable about our industry. But it’s up to all of us to get involved by working with political leaders at the local, state, and federal levels to let them know of our concerns and help them find policy solutions so that businesses and communities benefit.
The International Sign Association is here to help provide and tools and expertise to work with political leaders. Contact me to see how ISA might help your community or state deal with these issues.
David Hickey is vice president of Government Affairs at the International Sign Association.