Sealite closes on purchase of 20k-sq.-ft. Tilton building; company sees expanding markets for its solar-powered LED lighting systems
Published DateGILFORD — Charmed by the odds, Mark Goodwin, general manager of Sealite USA, LLC bet heavily on the future prospects of his company this week by investing $950,000 to acquire the 20,000-square-foot building at 61 Business Park Drive in Tilton, along with an option on the abutting vacant lot.
Sealite USA, was formed in November 2010 when Sealite Pty, Ltd., a manufacturer of marine and aviation navigation aids and lighting systems headquartered in Somerville, Victoria, Australia, acquired Watermark Navigation Systems of Gilford. Watermark, sister firm to Watermark Marine Construction — headed by Goodwin's brother Paul — had distributed Sealite products for some 15 years before the acquisition and in 2009 was named distributor of the year for its sales and marketing achievements in the United States.
Describing Sealite PTY Ltd. as "our parent company," Goodwin said that "we are part of the Sealite family."
Sealite USA is the sole distributor of Sealite products in North, Central and South America. Since 2012 Sealite USA has operated from 172 Lily Pond Road in Gilford. Goodwin said the company will retain ownership of the property, but has yet to decide whether to occupy or lease it. The Tilton facility, Goodwin said, will be configured to house office, warehouse and manufacturing space.
Sealite PTY Ltd. traces its origins to 1982 when Jeffrey Procter, whose son Chris is the chief executive officer of the company, began applying LED and solar technologies to build lights marking aquaculture sites around the Australian coastline as a hobby in his garage. By 2003, when operations moved from the garage, the firm had developed and marketed a range of marine navigation aids, and a year later announced the opening of an aviation lighting division — Avklite.
Today Sealite products, including buoys and lighting, are marking channels and hazards as well as runways and heliports in 110 countries around the world, including an airfield in the Gobi Desert serving one of Mongolia's largest mining companies and one of the world's largest ferris wheels, the Great Wheel in Seattle, Washington.
Goodwin said that while Sealite works with the New Hampshire Marine Patrol and the firm's buoys and lights aid navigation on Lake Winnipesaukee, military contracts represent a major share of sales. "We have thousands of our lights in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said, explaining that the solar-powered lighting is ideal for remote locations without ready sources of power. Likewise, he said that when the United States Army elected to light an additional runway at Fort Campbell, Kentucky they chose Sealite products to spare the cost extending power lines to the site. Although the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has yet to approve solar-powered lighting for commercial airports, when a small airfield in California converted a taxiway to runway while the runway was under repair, Sealite lit the taxiway.
Goodwin said he was especially excited by a recent addition to Sealite's stable, a lighting system for heliports, which includes perimeter, approach, touchdown and lift-off lights, all of which can be remotely controlled. "Hospitals are just one of the potential markets," he said.
With his experience at Watermark, Goodwin is equally enthusiastic about the marine applications of Sealite's technology. The company manufactures buoys in diverse shapes and sizes, which carry a variety of payloads. He explained that buoys can be fitted with GPS (Global Positioning System) and GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication) technology as well as as weather monitoring equipment, which enables them to regularly report on their condition. He said that a buoy can be encircled by an electronic perimeter so that should it break loose from its mooring the incident will be reported immediately. Likewise, the rate of recharge and condition of the batteries of the equipment carried by the buoy can be constantly monitored in real time from anywhere in the world.
"One of our lighted buoys was retrieved from a depth of 200 feet," Goodwin remarked, "and the light was still working. These products and designed and built to withstand extremely harsh conditions." He said that the lighting systems have a very high rating for water and dust intrusion. At the same time, he emphasized "this is a cost effective, green technology that uses solar power and emits no CO2."
Goodwin said that the company is working closely with the United States Coast Guard, which currently prefers steel to polyethylene buoys, as well as with governments throughout South America where commercial ports are being developed and expanded.
"There are all sorts of potential applications for this technology," Goodwin said, pointing to long pole propped on a stack of cartons. "We've been working with CSX, the railroad company, about lighting their switches," he said . "We've even placed our lights in historic lighthouses that have been restored." And last year Sealite USA installed the light that illuminates the sign on Gilford Avenue marking the Lakes Industrial Park.
Currently all Sealite's products are manufactured in Australia. Good win said that between 90-percent and 95-percent of all components, including circuit boards, are made in-house. "This is a great way of ensuring quality control," he said. The plant has capacity for tool and injection die making, optical engineering and rotational and injection molding as well as a research and development operation. If necessary, product can be shipped to New Hampshire in a matter of days, hastened by the difference in time zones, while larger shipments arrive on container ships.
Sealite PTY Ltd. is the fastest growing maker of marine and aviation navigational aids in the world and Sealite USA has has bought a ticket to go along for the ride.
CAPTION: Mark Goodwin, general manager of Sealite USA, displays some of the solar-powered, wireless controlled LED lighting systems designed for airfields and heliports. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)