By Jeff Labine
THE TIMMINS DAILY PRESS
Published: Jan. 18, 2015

An American-based lighting company has a bright idea to establish a manufacturing facility in Timmins which could create more than 50 jobs.

But that’s if things go according to plan.

City officials, along with the Timmins Chamber of Commerce and Timmins Economic Development Corporation, have been in discussion with Olympia Lighting Inc. over the last few months to possibly retrofit the lighting in Timmins to LEDs.

The city was already looking at ways to upgrade its street lighting to LED.

Rick Bisson, a representative with Olympia Lighting and a former city councillor, explained the project is what prompted them to get involved and possibly provide the city the LED lighting. But Olympia Lighting wasn’t just interested in providing the city with LEDs.

After weeks of discussions, Bisson said the company wanted to look at finding a facility to possibly build a plant.

“Our intent first of all is to work with the city and their project and get that up and running,” Bisson told The Daily Press. “If we are able to make an agreement with them, obviously, we will follow up with the plant and go from there. Our intent is to supply Eastern Canada and the northeastern United States as well. So we will have enough production to do that.”

Bisson said it took the company about 60 days to find a facility that met their requirements. Olympia Lighting needs a building with at least 26,000 square feet, which they were able to locate on Feldman Rd.

A building that size could employ 50 to 65 people and could be up and running as soon as 2016 or possibly 2017, Bisson said.

The ideal size would have been closer to 50,000 square feet, but Bisson said if things go well then they can expand to full capacity.

“If we can’t produce and give the city the end product that they are looking for at a less expensive price, then we don’t expect to get the contract,” he said. “We’re not asking the city to pay more for the product than they would otherwise just because we’re looking at putting in a plant.

“(The contract) is a consideration. I’d say it is a strong consideration in the sense that we are looking at an opportunity that has an overall benefit to both parties. Does one hinge on the other? I think it is a step in the right direction for the city.”

“We are going to make a commitment to the city and all we want in return is be able to supply them with their LED requirements. If somebody offers to build a plant here and supply your needs that you have already discovered and want to take advantage of and you choose another supplier then it’s a little bit of an insult I would think.”

Bisson explained the plant would be responsible for manufacturing the chips that go inside the LED, as well as assembling and producing some of components of the bulbs.

LED bulbs are supposedly more energy efficient compared to other types such as florescent. Bisson believes the city could save roughly 50% to 70% yearly if they switched to the bulbs provided by Olympia Lighting. This is based on the city replacing the close to 4,400 outdoor lighting units, and depends on the wattage of the bulbs.

He pointed out that one of the most important factors to bringing the plant to Timmins is diversifying the economy.

“Up until now, Timmins has only really attracted mining and lumber,” he said. “Those are the main employers. When you start to have production and technical based companies in your city, it gives you a broader tax base and employment opportunity to anyone who wants to move and work here.”

Bisson added the city doesn’t need to change any fixtures because the bulbs can just plug in.

He also pointed out that LED lights are less harmful to the environment because they don’t contain toxic materials like mercury.

“Currently, the province, and the country really, is retrofitting as much as they can to get away from (compact fluorescent lamps),” he said. “They contain pollutants that aren’t environmentally friendly. They are dangerous if they break. The idea of the province and some municipalities is to not only save some money, but have a greener source of lighting.”

Olympia Lighting and the city are expected to sit down again, which could be as soon as Jan. 26. In anticipation, city council will be getting an update on the LED street lighting retrofit during Monday night’s meeting.

But Bisson said they are asking for the Jan. 26 meeting to be pushed back by about two weeks so they have more time to prepare. In addition, it is said the company’s CEO would like be in attendance.

Bisson also wanted to thank Mayor Steve Black and members of council for helping him gather information for the upcoming presentation.