It would be expected that a company named US Pole Co. would make all its outdoor decorative lights in the United States. But that’s not the only reason why the privately-held firm calls the Antelope Valley home. A look through its catalogue offerings gives another reason that the combinations of its housings, reflectors, poles, bases and other parts going into its lights is so varied and multiplies so fast – base configurations, for instance, number about 70 that to do it elsewhere would be impractical. Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing Kerry Evanhoff made the comparison to buying a men’s shirt where a major department store sells limited styles at a lower cost but a specialty store will have more selection. “If you do low volume you can do the manufacturing yourself or limit the offerings and go with high volume that you are selling on price,” Evanhoff said. US Pole was started by founder Joe Straus in Sun Valley and moved north in 2002. The company distributed its lights under the U.S. Architectural Lighting and Sun Valley Lighting brands. Save for electric components from an outside supplier, US Pole does all its own manufacturing in Palmdale. The company has its own foundry to do sand casting, where aluminum light pole bases are knocked out of molds and left to cool in piles of sand. At lathes, machinists will hand spin a flat piece of aluminum into any desired shape. Painting and finishing of the light poles takes place in simple metal buildings in Lancaster. Outsourcing even a few steps in the manufacturing process remains an option albeit one the company chooses not to make. Going outside the country adds time delays with deliveries and shipping charges by volume rather than weight. Metal coming from a foreign country cannot be trusted, said Evanhoff, especially when the material needs to hold up under outdoor conditions. Often a foreign manufacturer will gradually slip in less expensive and lower quality metals with an order that will not meet specifications, he said. The lights come in traditional and contemporary styles. The former are preferred for a downtown or gathering place in a city or town; and old-fashioned look that says, ‘We’ve been here for 100 years.’ The latter are sleek, modern and geometric shaped lights to be used in a transit center or to blend in with buildings having a contemporary style. That US Pole makes its lights in America becomes a selling point depending on who the sales staff meets with. The “made in America” pitch gets toned down for lighting designers, who tend to be young with a liberal arts background. But if a client is a city or state government then the connection gets played up. “Architects tend to be favorable toward made in America as well,” Evanhoff said.
Palmdale Manufacturer Finds Flexibility in Local Base