Sealite USA grows business in new Tilton facility

TILTON —  From the outside, the grey, concrete block building is quite average as far as manufacturing facilities go. So when Weeks Commercial Realtor Kevin Sullivan brought the Sealite USA management team through it last fall, it was deemed a perfect fit by the future buyer. And while not a unique building on the outside, what's being produced on the inside is far from ordinary. The production line in this building turns out marine and aviation aids to navigation that insure the safety of the largest ocean-going vessels and farthest-flying aircraft.

Sealite USA, in its new 20,000 s.f. Tilton facility since last summer, serves both the marine and aviation markets. Their product line consists of aids to navigation that insure safe passage of ships through marked channels as well as solar powered airfield lighting systems produced for military, government and state/municipal and consumer markets.

The Australian company began operating in the United States under very humble circumstances. In 2005, Sealite products were distributed by a Gilford firm, Watermark Navigation Systems. Owned and operated by brothers Mark and Paul Goodwin and another investor, Watermark Navigation Systems initially began distributing the Australian made navigation lights and buoys to the State of New Hampshire to mark the many navigational hazards boaters on lake and coastal waters. What began as an emerging regional business turned into a government sales powerhouse as decades old navigational aids were upgraded and replaced with Sealite products. Business boomed and Goodwin's Watermark Navigation Systems was named Distributor of the Year for the Australian firm in 2009. Recognizing the commitment Goodwin had made to the company and its growth potential, Sealite acquired the lantern and buoy distributorship, Watermark Navigation Systems, in 2010 and renamed it for its soon-to-be expanded capabilities, Sealite USA. More than simply a distribution company, Sealite USA began light manufacturing.

With the company growing and demand continuing for both marine aids to navigation (or navaids) and aircraft lighting systems, more space was needed so Goodwin negotiated the purchase of the Tilton manufacturing site in 2012 and the company formally took occupancy in 2013.

Kevin Sullivan of Weeks Commercial Real Estate, represented Goodwin and Sealite in the purchase of the Tilton facility, which has proven to be an outstanding fit for the expanding company, especially since Sealite USA secured a large Canadian government contract.

Unfortunately, Goodwin was unable to see the fruits of his labor come full circle. Four years after being diagnosed with a terminal illness, Goodwin passed away in late 2013 after successfully launching Sealite USA in the North, South and Central American markets. According to Sealite Sales Manager Mark Novo, Goodwin was keenly attuned to the needs of the western market and the customers therein. "Mark Goodwin was a visionary. He recognized new markets and applications for Sealite products, generated the business to support the company's growth and helped create products that our customers needed. He was a mentor and a friend and will be missed deeply by all who knew him."

Novo's comments relate specifically to the recently awarded Sealite contract from the Canadian government to supply aids to navigation. In the new Tilton facility, Sealite brought in a rotational molding machine to build the navaids to the Canadian governments exact specifications and requirements. This manufacturing capability has created a number of new jobs, both on the manufacturing line and in the local construction business, as building modifications were necessary to explicitly align the rotational molding machine to its new space.

Sealite's customers are both large and small, local and distant. While small navaids dot the New Hampshire lakes and private docks of waterfront property owners, large Sealite navaids line the St. Lawrence Seaway, Ellis Island in New York Harbor and Elgin Air Force Base on Florida's panhandle. Sealite also makes a line of products specifically suited to relamp lighthouse beacons.

The Elgin Air Force Base installation also includes Sealite's aviation lighting, sold under the brand name Avlite. Because the Avlite products are relatively easy to set up and transport, they have become a standard for military and humanitarian organizations in the set-up of portable airfields where infrastructure is at a minimum, mobility is important and running cables is impossible. Iraq and Afghanistan each have several hundred Avlite portable airfield lighting installations.

Avlite also has safety lighting solutions for obstructions that might impede safe aircraft travel, such as telecommunication towers, buildings, bridges, wind turbines and other tall structures. Because Avlite products are constructed of LED (light omitting diode) technology, they are super bright, energy efficient and cost effective.
One local company using Avlite products is JBI Helicopters in Pembroke. With a fleet of helicopters providing lift/external load services, agricultural spraying and business/personal charter services, JBI uses Avlite for solar approach and taxiway lighting for their helipad. President Ray Newcomb figures he made a smart decision to use Avlite products. "Our pilots can remotely operate and control the brightness of the LED approach lighting. Not only are they great products keeping my pilots and helicopters safe, but using the Avlite lighting system saved me money since I didn't have a complicated installation -- no need to cut through the helipad tarmac to run cables. It's a great product from a company sensitive to the needs of their customers."

Now that some Sealite and Avlite products are made in America, that will open up even more sales opportunities, says Sales Manager Novo. "Producing a product that is made in the United States is key for our growth in the America's, not only to support US government business but also for the ease of shipping and transport to other countries. The move from distributor to manufacturer has been key for Sealite in the world marketplace. And Weeks Commercial Real Estate found Sealite the right spot for future growth."

Weeks Commercial Real Estate serves the commercial and industrial real estate markets from Concord to the North Country, and has the largest portfolio of commercial properties for sale and lease in the greater Lakes Region area. Stephen Weeks, owner of Weeks Commercial, expressed his enthusiasm for Sealite's prosperity and appreciation for their business. "Partnering with Sealite to get them into the right spot was a pleasure. We knew we had a great building for what they needed and couldn't be happier about their growing sales forecast and manufacturing capabilities."