Bright future likely for Le Roy company that sells LED lights to cities and villages in New York
Submitted by Howard B. Owens on January 17, 2014 - 6:58pm
|Kristin Gomborone, front, Gabrielle Keister and Scott Keister|
A small Le Roy company has put itself on the cusp of the next big thing in municipal lighting -- LED.
This week, GotToGo Electric, a six-person company on East Main Road, landed a $77,860 contract with Mayville to sell the village 350 LED street lights.
Last year, GotToGo provided the village with LED street lights as part of a pilot project and then was the lowest bidder to provide enough lights to illuminate the entire village.
Traditionally, cities and villages provide night light with either high-pressure sodium lights or metal-halide lamps, giving main streets either an eerie orange glow or a cold blue hue.
Modern LED lights provide a white light, which has its own benefits, but the main reason municipal governments are taking a closer look at LED these days is the cost savings.
LED lights can cut electric consumption by up to 65 percent and are virtually maintenance free.
A street light with LED bulbs has a 10-year warranty, but should continuing working for 15 to 20 years.
Sodium and halide lights must be replaced much more frequently.
"LED is the new way to go," said company President Scott Keister. "LED is gaining traction very quickly. I think what we'll see in the next few years is the Department of Energy change its requirements for energy consumption, and traditional lighting (sodium and metal-halide) won't be able to meet those requirements."
GotToGo Electric is a manufacturer rep for two of the companies in the U.S. that make municipal lighting and fixtures.
Established in 1990 as a company selling products for electric companies, it was forced less than a decade later to pivot into a firm that represents the manufacturers of products for municipal utilities after the electric companies in the Northeast merged.
It was an easy transition, said CEO Kristin Gomborone, because GotToGo had already established the relationships with the cities and villages in New York.
"Along with the relationships, we've been working with municipalities for about 24 years now, so we've built a rapport," Gomborone said.
The company is owned by Gomborone and her sister, Gabrielle Keister, who is VP of Finance, and GotToGo is a certified New York woman-owned business.
Both women were born and raised in Le Roy. Keister is from Alexander and attended Notre Dame High School.
Besides selling LED lights, GotToGo handles just about everything a municipality might need to provide utility service, from gas and electric meters, to cable and transformers for electricity and, of course, lighting.
Primarily, the company bids on behalf of the 25 manufacturers they represent for the sale and installation of utility products. But the company is also positioned to ensure ongoing maintenance needs, if any, are met.
Keister explained that manufacturers use product reps such as GotToGo because it's less expensive than maintaining a full-time staff in a territory.
GotToGo got into LED lighting as the demand began to grow.
Ten years ago, LED systems were expensive, provided a bluish light that consumers rejected (think of those district blue headlights that were common for awhile on some new model cars) and didn't provide as much illumination as traditional lighting.
Now the cost has come down, the light temperature has shifted to a neutral white (or a moonlight white) and systems can put out as much, if not more, light than sodium or metal-halide.
GotToGo's clients for LED lights include the City of Buffalo, Westfield, Jamestown, Springville and the company's first LED client, Auburn, which installed 450 new street lights.
And not just municipalities are in the market now for LED lights. Universities and colleges, malls, car dealers -- any place with the need to illuminate a large area -- is a potential customer for GotToGo's products.
"It's probably the most exciting thing we're doing now," Keister said. "It's up and coming. Like I said, it's been around 10 years, but it's really just starting to take a grasp."
The main thing holding back wider adoption of LED systems, Keister said, is the inability of Albany and the electric companies to come up with a plan on how the electric companies will serve municipalities.
There are about 42 cities and villages in New York, such as Mayville, that provide their own municipal electric service, so there aren't hoops to jump through to make the switch to LED.
But in all the others municipalities, the local governments contract with a big electric company to provide the lights, the electricity and the maintenance.
It's kind of a lease agreement paid for through a tariff.
"To charge people the current tariff rates for a fixture that is much more efficient and basically eliminates maintenance is not fair to the consumer," Keister said.
So, as the market changes -- new regulations requiring less energy consumption from street lights, and a new tariff scheme out of Albany -- GotToGo Electric, with its experience and connections, should be well positioned as the go-to company in WNY for municipal street lighting.
Click here for a story from an online news site in Chautauqua County about the Mayville purchase and to see a picture that shows the color temperature difference between LED and sodium lights.