In 1995, after an 11 year career with Florida Power and Light (FPL), specializing in energy and power management with FPLs largest customers across the state, United Lighting’s Founder, Steve Barnette, left FPL to form Enertech, Inc . In the first few years the firm converted building after building from T12 fluorescents to T8 Fluorescents. During that period, key relationships with ballast and lamp manufacturers were developed. Due to demand and the decline of T8 retrofits, the firm began selling ballast and lamps to many large end users that Steve had known through his tenure at FPL and to customers he had developed since beginning the firm.
As Steve recalls, “I got a call one day from a local independent electrical distributor as he had heard that I had relationships to get lamps and ballasts; at that point we began servicing his lamp and ballast needs. After a year or so, he moved on to another national distributor in Ft Lauderdale; we retained the original account and started servicing his new employer as well.” Over the years, through word of mouth and exceptional service to the electrical distributor market, new business relationships were developed throughout South Florida. Today the firm has done business with most every electrical distributor in the region.
In 2001, the company purchased another supplier in Ft Lauderdale to grow the customer base and to leverage its purchasing power. At that time the name was changed to United Lighting Sales, and a new company was formed to better reflect the growing lamp and ballast business. In 2001, the firm employed 4 or 5 people and grew by 30% per year until 2007.
When the construction market collapsed in 2008, sales were maintained but flattened with the economy downturn. As a result, an effort was made to diversify the product line. The company started stocking poles and fixtures to complement the existing ballast, lamp, and component accessory products. Along with the weakened economy, the company began feeling the effects of the migration, over the previous decade, of products being manufactured in China. Chinese manufacturing and the internet eroded prices of lamps and ballasts from 2000 to 2010. The company countered price erosion with increased on-hand inventory, exceptional customer service, and unparalleled service logistics.
By 2013, the reality that Lighting Emitting Diode (LED) Lighting was the future of the industry became apparent. Major manufacturers of lamps and ballasts by this time were also sourcing their products from China, which ultimately decreased the demand of brands. So in 2014, ULS began looking for manufacturing partners to transition the business from traditional lighting to LED Lighting. At Lightfair in 2014, ULS began their relationship with Eiko, Ltd. Eiko had been manufacturing in the far east for 35 years, and like ULS had to make the transition to LED. In addition Eiko had the support of private equity to support stock levels, develop products, absorb devaluating inventory, etc . So, in July of 2014, ULS placed their first stock order and began converting their SKUs to Eiko products and in late 2015 became the Master Distributor for the entire state of Florida.