By Mike Vieira | Sep 23, 2017
Industry: Built Environment
Products: Lighting products
Borden says the company uses design, sustainability, and value to provide architects and engineers throughout the country with specification-grade, made-to-order fixtures. About 90 percent of the San Francisco Bay Area company's work is for commercial and institutional projects, with the remainder being residential.
Borden started the company after more than 20 years of experience leading Shaper Lighting. Wanting to go on his own, he sought the backing of family and friends to form Borden Lighting in 2005. "Our work is based on a catalog of standard fixtures," says Borden. "About 15 percent of our business is modifying our standard fixtures to fit the needs of our customers, but we also do custom work as well." Borden himself has designed most of the company's products and believes Borden Lighting is probably the only lighting company in the country founded and operated by a licensed architect.
The Oakland-based business finds about one-third of its customers in the Bay Area, while independent manufacturers' reps handle the remaining two-thirds spread around the country. As for the materials to create their handcrafted fixtures, Borden estimates that more than half of their suppliers are in the Bay Area, with the remainder being mostly from Southern California, making Borden Lighting a true California manufacturing company.
In its early years, most of Borden Lighting's work involved compact fluorescent lamps, but today LED lighting makes up about 70 percent of the company's orders. The greater energy efficiency of the newer lamps certainly assists in achieving the company's sustainability goals. While the transition to the new lighting source presented certain challenges for its designers, the successful revamping of the lineup means that virtually all of Borden Lighting's products are now available as LED fixtures. The LEDs themselves and their drivers, however, are manufactured in China through American companies.
Although located in one of the more expensive areas of the country to do business, Borden Lighting manages to pay union wages and offer full benefit packages to its employees, while maintaining a mid-range price point for its products as compared to its competitors. On being profitable despite some higher overhead costs than some rivals, Borden says, "A lot of that has to do with the aesthetic of our fixtures being clean and simple, and that translates into the way the fixtures are made. We try to make them as efficiently, simply, and cleanly as we can and that helps reduce costs as well."
Borden Lighting's impressive and wide-ranging portfolio of work runs the gamut from seaside bollards at San Francisco's Golden Gate Ferry Terminal to Google's offices, along with universities, hospitals, shopping centers, country clubs, wineries, and churches.
Challenges: Managing a variable flow of work, and keeping the catalog fresh. "For us, the challenge is always to have a product that's new and interesting," says Borden, noting that new products keep customers and manufacturers' reps interested in the company's overall lineup.
Opportunities: Borden forecasts an increase in sales that will enable an upgrade to some newer equipment and further increase efficiency in manufacturing and assembly.
Needs: Talent, but finding workers with the right skill set is difficult. "It's a bit of a challenge finding workers on the metalworking side of things," says Borden. "There's a relatively small pool of qualified people. On the manufacturing side, the kinds of skills necessary, such as welding and punch press operation, are similar to many needed in the higher-paying construction industry. This presents an obvious problem in finding workers. On the assembly side of things, workers with the right skills are more plentiful."