Phoenix benefits from mining switch

Milwaukee lighting manufacturer Phoenix Products Company Inc. has grown from 77 to 123 employees since the end of 2010.

The company’s growth is driven by the mining industry’s switch from halogen or incandescent to high intensity LED flood lights.

Phoenix increased its research and development work over the last couple of years and started offering the powerful mining lights last year, said CEO Scott Fredrick.

The LED lights, which are attached to the front of mining shovels to illuminate the face of the mine, use 70 percent less energy than traditional mining lights.

They also last about 10 years to the regular lights’ one year. With a $15 million mining machine, downtime to change lights can be expensive, Fredrick said.

While Phoenix has been serving the mining industry for 60 years, the recent shift has increased demand for its products.
“That’s been our core market, but it’s just expanded so much with the LED,” Fredrick said.

The company works with major mining manufacturers like Caterpillar Inc. and Milwaukee-based Joy Global Inc. If the controversial Gogebic Taconite mine is built in northern Wisconsin, Phoenix would benefit—but not for several years down the road.

Prices for commodities like gold, iron and copper have been strong the last few years, which has propelled mining to new heights. But now that the sector is slowing down, many mining companies are trying to reduce costs by retrofitting existing machines with LED lights.

Fredrick plans to hire about seven more employees to meet the increased demand, but has struggled to find welders, machinists and engineers.

“We’ve had to work overtime to try to fill the gap,” he said.

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