|CREDIT: John McKay, Times Colonist
Tim Lo, extreme right, manufacturing manager at Carmanah, explains to foreign investors how the C&C router table works.
With back orders piling up and employees working elbow-to-elbow, Carmanah Technologies is expanding its operations in Victoria.
The publicly traded solar lighting company has leased a 25,000 square-foot warehouse off Glanford Avenue in Saanich -- the former factory of kayak maker Current Designs -- and will move its research and development, assembly lines and shipping there by early in the new year, says chief executive officer Art Aylesworth.
Carmanah has outgrown its rustic Harbour Road offices, but will maintain the site on Victoria's Upper Harbour for executives, design division, sales and marketing staff and some assembly procedures. The company employs 120 in Victoria, another 50 at its road-sign division in Calgary and 25 in field offices in Toronto, California and England. Recently acquired Soltek Powersource Ltd., a solar-power systems and panel designer and manufacturer, has another 65 employees in a Central Saanich facility who will be integrated into the new plant in Saanich.
"We had to make a move. With the way we are going and how busy we are, we didn't have a choice in the matter," said Aylesworth.
Orders for Carmanah's marine and aviation solar-powered LED lights have spiked heavily since hurricanes ravaged the U.S. south. The company has had to redirect orders destined for other parts of the world to the Gulf Coast as the coast guard, airports and other emergency agencies rebuild waterways, roads and runways.
Lucrative military and navy contracts have also been heavy as the U.S. continues operations in Iraq and Middle East. Carmanah's encased lights are coveted for their durability, portability and the fact they require no hardwire hookups and virtually no maintenance.
Aylesworth said back orders for marine and aviation lights are currently in excess of $2 million.
Carmanah also signed a $1.5-million deal last month to supply the city of London with its solar-LED bus shelters.
Carmanah's other operations -- the so-called "verticals" of road and industrial signs and transit products -- are also showing healthy orders, says Aylesworth.
Carmanah (TSXV: CMH) shares hit an all-time high of $3.89 late last month and finished Thursday down nine cents to $3.30.
The stock has been on a steady rise since dipping to $2.50 in late March.
In its last quarter reported in July, Carmanah recorded record revenues of $6.5 million, an 87 per cent increase over the same period a year earlier. For the first six months of 2005, revenue hit $11.3 million, more than double the 2004 total.
Six-month net earnings were $650,000, compared with $213,000 over the first half of 2004.
Aylesworth says the increasing activity put Carmanah in a crunch situation for space. He said ideally the company would have liked to built its own facility, but the current construction climate makes it too expensive and too long to turn around.
The new space at 300-770 Enterprise Cres. is being redesigned by architect Franc D'Ambrosio, who also worked on Carmanah's Harbour Road buildings and last year redesigned a former indoor playground in View Royal into headquarters and assembly plant for Reliable Controls, another high-tech company.
Construction in Saanich should start in three weeks. D'Ambrosio said the work will involve transforming a warehouse space into areas that can accommodate research and development, various offices and assembly lines that can be reconfigured for different products.