WLS Celebrates 50 Years in Business & Reflection of 50 Years of Lighting
The Beginning, the 1960’s
WLS Lighting Systems was founded in 1969 by Jim Pritchard. The company began as a family owned and operated steel pole manufacturer in the mid-60’s. At the time, Jim began working with WLS Lighting’s first major client, a large development company who built over 200 Kmart shopping centers. WLS provided all the exterior and interior lighting for the projects.
The 1970’s: Fluorescent to HID Lighting
When the 1970’s came around, WLS was manufacturing steel poles and began providing lighting direct to auto dealers and shopping center developers. At the time, High Intensity Discharge lamps (like mercury vapor lamps) were much more energy efficient than all else. It was during that time that mercury vapor lamps begin their rise in popularity.
In the 1980’s lighting technology moved forward to Metal Halide lamps, which were a type of HID lighting with an increased efficiency. WLS Lighting’s projects included replacing mercury vapor with metal halide. Metal Halide (MH) lamps were very similar to mercury vapor but were able to produce a much better quality and higher output of white light.
The 1980’s: Keeping it in the Family
Following in his father’s footsteps, Dean Pritchard began working to make WLS the best it could be. In 1981, he became a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) Organization. Later that year, WLS would be exhibiting at the very first ICSC RECon Convention. Dean and a few colleagues dressed up in their best Western attire, cowboy hats and all, to bring the best of Texas to Las Vegas, Nevada. WLS Lighting’s first trip to Vegas was taken by car with everything for the booth packed up in tow.
Fast forwarding to today, WLS Lighting will be exhibiting for the 38th year at ICSC RECon in Las Vegas. Needless to say, the convention is now one of the largest hosted at the Las Vegas Convention Center and sees over 35,000 attendees. After 38 years of exhibiting in Vegas, there are thousands of stories to tell, but what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!
The 1990’s & Rebranding WLS
In 1993, Dean officially rebranded the company as a full-service commercial lighting systems manufacturer and designer. It was the beginning of introducing new technologies and a new way to do business. WLS was the first company to work closely with developers designing and selling lighting direct.
In 2009, WLS created the first wireless controller and remote monitoring system for shopping centers called netLiNK Controls. 10 years later, netLiNK has over 500 installations across the country.
At this time, Metal Halide lamps still dominated the market and peaked in growth in 2005. In the early 2000s, LED lighting technology had been around for decades, but LED Lighting was not yet widely accepted nor was it perfected for commercial uses. The first LED upgrade projects WLS worked on began in 2010. WLS finally saw the industry wide switch and acceptance to LED lighting in about 2015.
Today, WLS works and designs almost exclusively with LED lighting products and systems. Over 25 years and 6,500 shopping centers later, WLS is still family owned and growing every day. WLS Lighting Systems has been in the lighting industry for over 50 years and continues to be a leader in lighting and site lighting controls.
A Look Back: Love Blossoms
In 1981, Dean met his now wife, Mimi. In the early 1980’s Mimi worked for the largest pole manufacturer in the world where she headed up export sales for the Americas. Jim Pritchard was one of her clients in the United States. After 24 years of rendezvousing, Dean and Mimi married in 2011.