A bright idea

Tracy man opens LED lighting business

Photo by Jody Isaackson Dru Larson of Tracy has opened a branch office of Northwest Lighting Systems Inc. in the former gas station building on the property along U.S. Highway 14, having bought the property from Warren Hemmingsen who has just sold out of Hemmingsen RV.

TRACY — What do you do when you hurt your back and can’t do your normal job any longer? Construction contractor Dru Larson of Tracy found out last year.

Larson was laid up earlier in the year and was still trying to figure out his next move when an old friend stopped by at Christmas time.

“I was a contractor for 25 years,” said Larson, who graduated Tracy High School in 1987, “and I substitute taught at Tracy Area High School and did some coaching over the winter, but I had six shots in my back from June until November. I was laid up through Christmas.”

His friend, John Hannasch, a 1983 graduate of Tracy High School, is a partner in Northwest Lighting Systems Co., based in Burnsville. Hannasch said he had heard Larson had been laid up and took the opportunity to visit him.

“My partner was retiring, so I asked Dru if he wanted to go into business with me,” Hannasch said.

“I was looking for something else to do,” Larson said, “and this was something new.”

Long story short, Larson bought out retiring partner Kevin Egan from New Hampshire and was looking for a place to set up his branch office.

“I considered running it out of my home, but then Hemmingsen RV property came up for sale,” Larson said. “It’s right on Highway 14. It’s perfect. I can’t say enough about how great it is to work with Warren (Hemmingsen).”

Larson took over ownership of the property on June 1 for warehouse space, but Hemmingsen still has things from his former RV business in the main office building to remove. In the meanwhile, Larson has set up shop in the old gas station located on the front of the property and getting his training out of the way. Once the back building is available, it will be remodeled prior to a September grand opening, Larson said.

“We’ll let the dust settle and get organized,” he said.

Northwest Lighting Systems was a wholesaler that assisted electricians with their lighting needs.

Having taken a nine-week course from National Association of Lighting (NALD) in two weeks, Larson feels he has a good knowledge base to assist electricians in ordering LED lighting for businesses. LED, a light-emitting diode, is a two-lead semiconductor light source.

“He’s picking up quickly and is doing well,” Hannasch said of his new partner.

The LED lighting saves the business owners money on their electric bill. Larson works with electricians by walking through the buildings with or for them to do the measuring and also to contact the energy provider in regard to what kind of savings LED lighting will give over a five year period. Most business start seeing a return on their investment in two to three years, Hannasch said.

“That means you have two years of free maintenance,” he said.

“It also saves the electricians time,” Hannasch said. “Dru will just do the measuring, contact the energy company and work up a quote for the electrician to add to the bill he gives the business owner. It makes it easier for the electrician.”

Larson will not do any installation but will leave that for the electrician.

Hannasch said that LED lighting can cut electrical bills from 40 to 70 percent.

“I’ve installed several thousand 4-foot lights per year,” Hannasch said. “There’s a five year or 50,000 hours warranty on each. The maximum any business uses in five years is 48,000, and they’d have to leave the lights on 24/7.”

Larson is already been talking to electricians in a 25 mile radius and getting settled

Helping Larson with his business is his wife, Nicole, who is training to be the accountant/office manager, having experience as a CPA with Kinner & Co. LTD. Their son, Trevor, 15 has been helping out on a part-time basis. There is a central purchaser based in Coon Rapids.

“Our oldest son, Derek, just finished his first year at electrical school and has one year left,” Larson said. “We hope to work with him in the future.”

Larson said that his office hours are 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays, but he would deliver something to someone outside of business hours if needed. Larson can be reached at 507-530-1232.

“We’re excited about having another business in Tracy,” he said.

With Larson managing the Tracy branch, Hannasch said he would be getting back to Tracy more often to visit his new business partner and old friend.