ProCal Lighting, Inc. glows and grows with purpose and proficiency
An iconic bridge, professional sports venues, downtown city streets and even a convention center are just a few of the places that Vista, California-based ProCal Lighting, Inc. has transformed from ordinary to extraordinary with energy- efficient lighting solutions.
The creator behind this company, President and CEO Brian Morales, formed it in 2014 in response to a growing demand for more sustainable technologies that also boost energy savings. But ProCal Lighting—a certified 8(a), disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) and small business (SB) contractor—has gone well beyond simply deploying a better lightbulb.
Its talent as an LED specialist has evolved considerably into award-winning projects, close partnerships with leading manufacturers, new forays into smart city connectivity and a continuous improvement mindset built around its success, and more importantly, its employees.
A Spark of Awareness
Brian’s first foray into the construction industry, and specifically the power sector, was as a handyman. “I really enjoyed the electrical work, so I looked for jobs that had to do with electrical connections, with a particular emphasis on energy efficiency,” he says.
He points to the push by federal and state entities and utilities to reduce energy loads, reinforced by rebates, which in turn, stimulated technology advancement in light-emitting diodes, better known as LEDs. In fact, LED lightbulbs use up to 90% less energy than an incandescent lightbulb, while providing the same illumination.
By the early 2000s, Brian was working for a utility company as an independent contractor to modernize lighting systems as part of federal and state rebate programs. With a growing knowledge of lighting technology and a knack for process and project management, Brian took a job as a project manager, helping federal, state and local entities improve energy efficiency on the West Coast. He also earned his journeyman license and contractor’s license in 2009.
By 2014, he was ready to go out on his own, establishing ProCal Lighting as an LED lighting solutions provider focused on commercial projects, which included efficiency lighting for the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) office in Carlsbad, California.
Within a year, he had five electricians, some leadership help, including Chris Morales, now Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, and a growing backlog of business.
“What we did really well at the onset of the company was follow advancements and continually learn,” Brian recalls. “While our competition largely focused on quick, low-cost unit installations, we focused on the lighting and controls innovations and advancements.”
Case in point: the installation of smart control fixtures that require system integration and commissioning into a building’s management system to allow for centralized control and cross-platform utilization.
Establishing an Identity
While there was good growth and many opportunities, Brian started to see some troubling issues within the company.
He explains, “As we began to scale up, I realized that our company didn’t have an identity, or a set of core values for everyone to abide by, which created some disruption in performance and employee satisfaction—and it was up to me to set those values.”
He positioned his best electricians, Jason Hernandez, Don Smith and Will Poitras, as foremen to help guide both quality and customer service. And at the same time, Brian, Chris and the foremen established a code to live by, which they call SHINE, an acronym for Safety, Honesty, Ingenuity, Nobility and Excellence.
“For example, safety to us means more than injury prevention, but also persecution [prevention],” Brian says. “We want to be a place where everyone feels safe. We must always be honest with ourselves. Ingenuity is integral to the foundation of our company—we develop and deliver creative solutions. Nobility is all about giving back to our community and excellence is the quest to do good work.”
Lights and Liaisons
With a firm handle on its company values, ProCal Lighting also sought to strengthen industry partnerships and expand educational opportunities. “We positioned ourselves in the industry as specialists, focused on lighting controls, not just improving individual units. To do that, I wanted our electricians to be a part of our manufacturers’ educational programs,” Brian explains. “For instance, when they develop new products, our experts could perform the testing.”
Manufacturers appreciated the interest, and in 2018, the largest lighting manufacturer in the world, Philips (now Signify), reached out to Brian to establish a partnership.
He says, “We became a liaison to test and deploy advanced product lighting solutions. When there were bugs, our team of electricians and managers worked with the manufacturer to fix them. It saved the manufacturer money and gave our guys more experience.”
Specifically, he and his team were able to expand skills around RGB (red, green and blue), IoT (Internet of Things), color-changing lights and other sophisticated and emerging lighting solutions.
Over the next year, ProCal Lighting expanded partnerships with manufacturers and energy service companies such as Honeywell, Trane Technologies, Schneider Electric, Siemens and, more recently, Daktronics and OpenEye. Those relationships opened up new opportunities to demonstrate both technical expertise and creativity.
“…a good company is one where our people grow as individuals…not just grow our company.” Brian Morales, President and CEO, ProCal Lighting, Inc.
ProCal Lighting has become a familiar name to owners and operators of Southern California venues, providing lighting and controls from the streets of Downtown San Diego to sports stadiums including Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres Major League Baseball team, and the new Aztec Stadium at San Diego State University.
While signal and intelligent transportation systems, energy-efficient lighting and controls, roadway lighting and commercial electrical design services make up a large portion of ProCal Lighting’s business, it’s the architectural LED lighting that gets this company the most visibility.
The specialty contractor gained particular visibility while working on the San Diego Convention Center’s Sails Pavilion. The 90,000-square-foot, glass-enclosed event space was undergoing a renovation of its concrete flooring and other infrastructure, and ProCal Lighting was part of the energy retrofit team.
Brian says, “We noticed they were redoing the lighting in the exhibit halls, and we mentioned to the owner how great it would look with color-changing lights that showed through in the sails. They were interested, so I presented a concept to the board of directors. They were so excited that they also commissioned an opening-day light show.”
Several noteworthy figures attended the grand opening, including the mayor of San Diego, the commissioner for the San Diego Unified Port District and the CEO of the San Diego Convention Center.
That project also led to a new member of the team. Brendan McCartney, now Director of Specialty Lighting at ProCal Lighting, was working as an agent to the lighting manufacturer on the convention center project.
Brendan notes, “Prior to joining ProCal Lighting, I remember hoping that I would be the contractor on the job. Often-times, I would assist in providing design, installation tips and lighting programming/commissioning code for their budding architectural business. Since joining the team, we have challenged each other to take electrical contracting and architectural dynamic lighting to the next level.”
That collaboration led to a job with the San Diego Unified Port District. The commissioner reached out to ProCal Lighting about another LED lighting concept—this time for the iconic San Diego-Coronado Bridge.
In coordination with the California Coastal Commission, the San Diego Unified Port District is piloting artist-designed, programmable LED lighting studies, as part of a privately funded effort to create a unique aesthetic identity for the bridge and the bay after dark.
As the installation contractor for the study phases, ProCal Lighting provided custom fabrication to ensure the light fixtures were adjustable during the live demonstration. The first study took place over land and involved two 180-foot booms that operated next to a 200-foot bridge pier. The second phase was a full lighting-system test over the water at Piers 16, 17 and 18 of the San Diego-Coronado Bridge. The system included custom engineering of mounting devices and a wireless lighting network.
The study phases will inform the design of a permanent artistic light installation on all 30 of the bridge piers. The future project is anticipated to cost $14 million-$16 million and is to be funded through donations; it is targeted for completion by 2022.
EV and Excellence
Looking forward, the ProCal Lighting team sees some exciting lighting projects on the horizon, many with an emphasis on smart city interconnectivity and 5G technology. These elements are pivotal items within the current federal infrastructure bill. The technology will not only provide for a smarter network of data harvesting devices informing city planners and providing a base for autonomous vehicles, but will also deliver more secure neighborhoods and attract technology companies that rely on this infrastructure to develop their own technology.
As an example, the company is currently working on 13 Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) stations in San Francisco. The structures have energy-efficient lighting and network controls that will help BART manage its utilities and provide a safer environment for patrons.
As well, Brian sees considerable work ahead in electrical vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. He adds, “The technology is very similar to lighting, so we’re once again partnering with manufacturers to learn, test and deploy new advancements.”
He also found the perfect person to help guide this new business direction in Namrita Merino, former Senior Manager of Distributed Energy Resources Delivery at Southern California Edison, and now ProCal Lighting’s Director of Construction and Transportation. As California’s transportation electrification goals become more ambitious, and as the Biden administration’s infrastructure initiatives aim to accelerate the deployment of EV charging stations, Namrita believes it’s imperative that every industry does its part to support the widespread adoption of EVs.
She adds, “I’m beyond grateful to have the opportunity to showcase how ProCal Lighting is here for all our clients and customers to help educate them on the benefits that EV charging brings to businesses, communities and drivers. Developing an EV charging project is a major decision and can be daunting. We are committed to make it really easy for anyone to install charging stations at their commercial sites.”
Further, ProCal Lighting has a dedicated EV infrastructure team with the perspective and resources to educate owners and contractors on available station and software options, as well as financial incentives.
It’s that holistic focus on service that guides ProCal Lighting’s business. Whether delivering lighting solutions for bridges or commercial EV infrastructure, the company’s goal is to be known as a specialist for a broad range of groups—including retailers for marketing, municipalities for traffic management and government entities for security purposes.
Brian adds, “More importantly, we want to be a quality workplace. We invest a lot of time and money in technology training, but also on the soft skills, like managing and working with people. We’re learning how to understand personalities, and ensure that we’re rewarding our people as needed, while communicating ways to advance and improve. We don’t want our people to be stagnate while they work for us; we want them to be excited. I think a good company is one where our people grow as individuals…not just grow our company.”
It’s that focus that allows ProCal Lighting to live up to its motto: We provide the light, so you can shine.