A Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: Larry Alt

A Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: Larry Alt

As I make the trek to the mall from Winfield, I notice the cars around me, the businesses surrounding the sides of the roads and the billboards engulfing the sky. Long time region resident Larry Alt has been developing local businesses in the Region for many years, and he has most likely been a part of the development of the businesses scattered along Route 30.

“I think my interest in business development came from just being in business and finding opportunities and opportunities really are born from a need. I guess the easiest way to put it is: you’re looking for solutions to problems,” Alt said.

Not only has Alt participated in the development of many buildings in the Region, he has also been involved with billboard developments.

“When I worked for Whiteco one of the things that we had was 36,000 billboards across the United States and we were sitting around discussing some of the economics of it one day, and we discovered through some computer modeling that we were spending about $4 million a year on lighting for our billboards. So the question was, ‘Gee we drive down the street it’s three ‘o’clock in the afternoon the lights are all on one of the billboards, what’s the problem?’ I went out and did some research and found out what we were using to control the lights, and there really wasn’t a reliable device out there that we could buy that would solve that problem. So, through some discussions with some technology people that I knew in the area, it was decided that we could talk to those billboards electronically, we could talk to them using either paging technology or cellular technology,” Alt said.

“We went to a company, we built some sample units, went out [and] put them in the field; that worked so we built some more [and] put them on our billboards [and] started a company called Profile Systems. Profile Systems still exists today and it’s a one-way and two-way communications to control lights, to control HBC heating and cooling; it was again a need that we had.”

By solving a million dollar problem, Alt was able to save Whiteco a nice chunk of change; however, Alt did not solve this tedious problem alone.

“I think that [it’s] important to understand that you have to work with other people and other technologies. But we created and put in the first tri-waves which is a three-sided billboard face that turns and turns and turns and we were the first company to put tri-waves in the area,” Alt said. “We were early adopters of the LED, the LED electronic signs. We were doing that, so in a lot of ways we were just kind of upgrading the business, doing the business a little differently than what has been done before.”

Besides developing businesses and billboards, Alt is also involved in various organizations in the Region. Alt is directly involved with TradeWinds, an organization that provides services for those with special needs.

“I actually brought two things to TradeWinds, one was we have a sign shop. We create signs, we make all kinds of banners, different kinds of signs to hang on your buildings [for] all kinds of events. We make yard signs, we’ll make golf outing signs; we have a complete very thorough sign shop. We make signs for people, so that’s a retail business that we have,” Alt said. “Most recently I brought to TradeWinds a recycling of computers, and we collect computers that people don’t want and we recycle them. We tear them apart we take the various component parts out of it and we recycle them. Whether it’s the metals, the plastics, it’s the electronics and it’s a very large business that continues to grow.”

While Alt is involved in the Region in various ways, the most prevalent project is the end result.

“I think it’s important that people say, ‘why do you do what you do?’ and you don’t have to. Certainly a lot of this that I do I don’t make any money doing it, in fact, it costs me money but I think that the primary reason is you want to make a difference. And that’s why I do what I do, I’d like when I’m no longer on this earth to have people look back and say, ‘Gee, Larry made a difference. He took something and he changed it and he made it better because he was involved with it.’ I think that’s what I want to do…that’s kind of my goal in life is to get involved with things and try to make a difference to make things better for other people,” Alt said.