Mike Mortenson has been in Fergus Falls his whole life. He is a fifth-generation resident; his grandfather settled here in 1868. Mortenson’s history in Fergus Falls is a major reason why he cares about the well being of the community.
“I care about our businesses and I care about the town advancing,” Mortenson said. “I got tired hearing how Alexandria or Fargo is better so, I decided I would do something that was fun, but helped the local businesses.”
In 2011, he started a new business, Mortenson Outdoor Sign, building billboards around the area. It has been about seven years since he started and Mortenson now has 13 billboard faces around Fergus Falls. In town he has 12-by-24 feet faces, four billboard faces on I-94 at 14-by-48 feet and he will be building more billboards there this summer.
This past January, he installed a new billboard by the Lake Region Healthcare Walk-In Clinic and Applebee’s in Fergus Falls. It was his first digital billboard with a face of 11-by-31 feet. The digital board, provided by Formetco out of Atlanta, Georgia, has the “latest and greatest definition,” and Mortenson said is a 16-millimeter pixel screen. “So, it’s kind of the latest technology in digitals,” he said.
Although he had to order the digital aspect of his newest billboard, Mortenson generally gets all his materials and help locally and his billboards serve local businesses first.
“If Dairyland wants to be on my billboard and I have another company in Alex or Fargo waiting, Dairyland is first,” he said. “I want to take care of the local business community before we take care of Alex and Fargo.”
The dangerous art of installation
In a recent installation, Mortenson said it took locking together four pieces to complete his digital board. From start to finish, installing a billboard cannot be done in a single day’s work.
To start, he hires a local company, H&R Construction to dig a hole. “We dig a hole that is 16 to 20 feet deep and 3 to 4 feet in diameter and then we put the pole in first with the crane company (Korby Contracting) and concrete around that pole.”
While he waits for the concrete to secure the pole, he builds the upper structure or the top of the billboard next to the pole during the next couple of weeks.
“Then we come back and have the crane put the top on the pole,” Mortenson said. “The top is usually held with 8 to 12 one-inch diameter bolts, so I bolt that top piece on and then we move on to the digital piece.”
The digital segment of the billboard is trucked from Atlanta, Georgia. The four digital segments are craned one by one to the face of the billboard, where Mortenson and another crew member waits. The digital faces are attached with specialized clamps which connect it to the high beams.