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Their first challenge, both said, was finding a suitable location for the high-tech sign which was close to home. Martin contacted Huntington Tri-State Airport manager Jerry Brienza and made a proposal which would put their first sign at HTS at no cost to the airport authority while also generating advertising revenues for both Screentronix USA and the airport.

Hornbuckle and Martin, both big believers in enjoying themselves while working hard, often break into laughter as they recall their first experience assembling the highly technical sign from parts packed into 40 crates and stored in a hangar at the nearby airport.

“There were instructions, sort of, but we’re both a little weak on our Mandarin Chinese,” Hornbuckle said, noting they teamed after work and on weekends to put the elaborate puzzle together. After three weeks, the sign was assembled and ready to install, although the partners thought it might be a good idea to fly in a pair of qualified Chinese technicians from Florida to double check their efforts.

“Eventually, they popped their heads out and said, ‘You do good. We take apart now.’ In 45 minutes they took apart what it took us three weeks to put together. They had it back together in four or five hours and it was ready to fire up in two days,” Hornbuckle added.

“It was like looking at the sun until they got an image up, and then, man, it was amazing,” Martin said, adding someone had a copy of the Disney Pixar film “Finding Nemo,” which they watched on the big screen in utter amazement. “That was a huge day for us.”

“People in airports want technology and they are a captive audience with above average discretionary income,” Hornbuckle said, explaining why their signs are an excellent investment for advertisers. “It is a target rich environment. We have movers and shakers seeing our stuff all day long.”

Inspiration for the partners’ second company, Lumen X, came when an airport manager in Columbia, S.C., expressed an interest in replacing traditional lighting with more energy-efficient LED units and fixtures. Sensing a good opportunity, Hornbuckle said they could help and the second company was born on the spot.

“LEDs are like cars. You can have a Pinto or a Maserati,” Martin said, explaining they sought the absolute highest quality LED applications available for Lumen X and became to exclusive dealer for those products in the United States. Citing the anticipated lifespan of the products they sell, both agreed the units won’t likely be replaced until the next generation. The products have been designed to replace everything from household applications to metal-halide lights used in gymnasiums, and others have been designed to provide high-intensity diffused light, using less electricity than incandescent or fluorescent light, outdoors and even underwater.

“We deal only with the upper end of quality,” Hornbuckle said, explaining different units are measured and compared by their “lumen per watt” ratings. “Early LEDs were 45 to 50 lumens per watt and now the standard is 65 to 70 lumens per watt. The stuff we handle is 130 lumens per watt.”