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Harold E. Williams couldn’t have imagined where later generations of his family would take the business he began in 1921 in Carthage. But Williams did his part, setting it on a new trajectory after a trip to the 1939 World’s Fair, in New York. He returned to Carthage with a vision for manufacturing fluorescent light bulbs. Today, the company is still run by family and primarily sells LED lighting for industries worldwide, from the Booth Theatre at Boston University to the Virginia Hospital Center (Arlington) and the Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort.
SBJ: The science of lighting has changed significantly since H.E. Williams’ founding. How does your team stay atop the changes?
Adrienna Tiller (marketing communications specialist): A lot of different ways. We belong to several memberships and organizations. Our engineers write white papers on constant technological changes. Our factory is constantly getting machinery. Our employees are attending conferences that give them the latest on the lighting world today. And customer feedback.
SBJ: You offer different lighting systems for a variety of industries. How do you get to understand the needs of those markets?
Tiller: Right now, we have different buckets of niches that we try to cater to. A lot of the time we seek that and sometimes it falls into our laps. We do a lot in schools, a lot in health care. We’ve been a part of some really cool projects. People in the field let us know what’s needed where.
SBJ: How did the pandemic impact you?
Tiller: We converted hospital floor units into COVID units. There was a lot of renovation going on because people were out of buildings, so we could get in there when people weren’t there. We were really flat because some opportunities became available that wouldn’t have happened, but others got put on hold. We were very fortunate in that regard.
SBJ: What investments in equipment have you made?
Tiller: Most recently, we developed a (surface mount technology) line and a little bit of robotics as well. So, we can make more in-house and not outsource that as much. It seems like every time I walk in the warehouse, they’ve changed something else. We have a line dedicated to making LED diodes, so we’re not waiting on the parts to come in.
SBJ: It seems lighting was slow to evolve from fluorescent to LED but when it did, it seemed to come all at once. What was the company’s experience?
Tiller: It seemed like fluorescent was the big thing and that quickly changed. Now everything is LED. In the course of a year, we went from 40% LED to 95% and have been for a while now, since 2015.
SBJ: What’s next?
Michelle Peak (marketing manager): We are continuing to develop new products and fixtures but also controls that go along with them, sensors that can read the amount of daylight coming into the room and dimming the fixtures. There’s a lot of technology in the control space that enhance energy savings or overall wellness in a space. Fixtures will continue to sell, of course, but the components are the big focus.
Tiller: We are trying to mirror the outdoors to help with biorhythms – cool light during the day, warm at night.
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