Energy Tech Solutions is featured in the Sioux City Journal in the Sunday Business Section on June 24, 2012.
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Future looks bright for Moville LED light maker, By Dave Dreeszen 06/24/12
MOVILLE, Iowa | Newly installed LED lights illuminate an office high rise in Orlando, Fla. and a hospital in Johnston, Pa.
What do the two projects have in common? In both cases, the energy-efficient light fixtures were assembled in Moville, Iowa.
A small two-story brick building on main street houses a manufacturing plant and warehouse for Energy Tech Solutions.
Headquartered in the Madison, Wis. suburb of Monona, the small business was started seven years ago by Moville native Rob Everhart and his wife, Cynthia.
Energy Tech is among a growing number of U.S. businesses trying to capture a share of the large, emerging market for LEDs, which can last for a decade or longer and produce as much light as old incandescent bulbs but at a fraction of the energy cost.
Due to the high upfront expense, LEDs are still years away from making a dent in the residential market, but the return on investment is making the fixtures more and more feasible for commercial uses, especially for decorative outdoor lighting.
Three part-time workers staff Energy Tech's Moville plant, which makes four main LED products, and ships them to customers in every state and several countries.
Energy Tech is working to diversify its product line, increase production and add more local jobs, Rob Everhart said in an interview last week.
"We're moving cautiously and conservatively, hopefully up to a larger operation there," he said.
The Northwest Iowa site replaced manufacturing jobs previously outsourced to Mexico.
"We determined we could actually do it more cost efficiently, and have better quality control and better response times than building them in Mexico," Cynthia Everhart said.
Rather than lease or purchase a manufacturing facility in the Madison area, the Everharts decided to extensively renovate the 71-year-old Moville building, which they purchased in 2001 as an investment property, shortly after they married.
"We did the entire build-out for a fraction of the cost of what it would cost to have a facility like that here in Wisconsin," Rob Everhart said.
The shift toward domestic production has allowed Energy Tech to tap into a surging demand for U.S.-made LED lights, said Cynthia Everhart, who owns the small business, while her husband serves as an energy consultant.
The woman-owned, small business was recognized last year by a Wisconsin procurement program for its work in developing lighting for U.S. government agencies making energy upgrades.
Early success in using Google searches to drive potential customers to the company's website has fueled commercial and professional sales.
The company's main product, known as a wall pack, attaches to the side or ceiling of a building to light the perimeter for security and safety purposes.
Energy Tech lights can be found throughout the country on numerous government buildings, military installations, offices, schools, hospitals and parking garages.
Demand for the products, Cynthia Everhart said, has been strongest in coastal states like California and Florida where electric rates are expensive.
High energy costs prompted managers of the SunTrust Financial Centre to turn off the exterior lights of the skyrise, the tallest in downtown Orlando, Fla. The darkened skyline alarmed city officials.
The 36-story tower was relit last fall following the installation of Energy Tech's energy-efficent products. The replacement fixtures cast more light, but consume 90,000 fewer watts, or 90 percent, than traditional bulbs. Energy savings are estimated at $62,000 annually, providing a payback of 2.1 years, Rob Everhart said.
More recently, Energy Tech completed work on another downtown Orlando high rise office building -- the Lincoln Plaza. Those lights were made in Moville. Since opening in January, the Iowa plant also has shipped out products for such facilities as the Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center in Johnston, Pa. and government buildings in Cupertino, Calif., home to tech giant Apple.
Other notable projects in Energy Tech's portfolio includes illumination for Disney amusement parks and the rotunda in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill.
Rob Everhart, who has worked as an energy consultant for 26 years, said LED are becoming a more attractive option, as prices fall and the technology advances.
LED, which stands for light-emitting diodes, produces light efficiently with the movement of electrics through a semiconductor material. The process illuminates tiny light sources in an electrical circuit.
Unlike ordinary incandescent bulbs, LEDs don't have a filament that will burn out, and they are basically cool to the touch.
LED lights also can be equipped with a switch and designed for specific needs, said Ed Pickens, production manager for the Moville site. The light emitted also is more efficient than traditional bulbs.
"If you take a light like this," Pickens said, motioning to an LED light on the ceiling of the Moville office. "it won't go up. It's all directional. You point it where you want it to go."
Cynthia Everhart said Energy Tech focuses on designing high-quality LEDs, and teaming up with other companies in the industry.
"We really find specific manufacturers that are very, very good at what they do, but they are not very good at bringing it to market," said Cynthia Everhart, a Chicago native. "That's where we can come in, partner with then, help them with their designs, as far as trying to find the right applications for their product, and then bringing it to our suite of customers, distributors and federal contracts."
Rob Everhart, who has worked as an energy consultant for 26 years, said Energy Tech is currently talking to other manufacturers who have expressed an interest in shifting their production from high-cost metro areas like Chicago to Moville, pop. 1,618.
"They understand we take a more technical approach and are very cautious with our design and build and we would be a good candidate to build their products as well," he said.
There is room for future expansion, he said.
During the city's recent 125th anniversary celebration, Energy Tech hosted an open house at at its Moville facility, 125 Main St. The front office was lit with 30-watt LED lights, which put out the equivalent light of a 100-watt incandescent bulb, Pickens said. Two of the old bulbs cost as much electricity to run as the 17 LED overhead lights in the office, he said.
Other local staff members are production tech Taylor Campbell and Wendy La Croix, who works in accounting.
In addition to assembly and shipping, Pickens works on research and development on new products.
The front of the building is equipped with an office, desks and a conference table, which Rob Everhart uses during his frequent trips back to his hometown.