The manufacturer of high-powered LED lighting is growing its business in South Australia by providing lighting systems to everything from sports stadiums to cultural installations before attempting to light up the world.
As a youngster, Aaron Hickmann used to sit behind the fences and watch in awe as supercars burned up the Adelaide 500 track.
Hickmann, the chief executive of high-powered LED manufacturer VAILO, said he never dreamed a company he founded would get the naming rights of the street race, which returns to Adelaide this December.
“I remember watching Mark Scaife in the HRT Commodore and Lowndes, who was his nemesis who had just switched to Ford in a silver and green Falcon,” said Hickmann, an InDaily 40 Under 40 alumnus and now a sponsor of the awards.
“I was a Ford fan because they were the underdogs and it was just so exciting to watch it.”
The Kent Town manufacturer is broadening its work in motorsport with a contract to supply LED lighting for a new drag strip at The Bend Motorsport Park at Tailem Bend.
Construction of the new 400m dragway is already underway at the race track, with work scheduled to be completed by early 2023.
Founded 10 years ago, VAILO specialises in technology for stadium lighting and has partnered with organisations such as Sports SA, Adelaide United and Illuminate Adelaide.
The dragstrip will include a 1000sqm burnout pad and viewing areas for more than 40,000 spectators across grassy knolls, arenas and grandstands.
Hickmann said it was important for the company to produce the “brightest LED lighting installation in the world for the dragstrip.”
“You’ve got these cars going from zero to 100 km/h in two seconds and in some cases even faster, so lighting is critical from a fan experience and safety perspective,” Hickmann said.
“That was one of our biggest driving forces with the lighting design, which, you know, it took us almost 15 months to really perfect that with the owners.
“We’re also going to be using LED screens for part of that game day experience as well and so we are pretty confident that this will be more than twice as bright as anything else in Australia.”
VAILO is expecting to grow its capacity over the next 12 months with the help of a new facility at Wayville. This site is scheduled to be six times the size of their eastern suburbs site.
Hickmann said he is also eyeing a “quadrupling” of his workforce to about 100 staff within the next 12 months. The company has grown from a team of four just last year to 26.
The company is also hoping to announce plans this year of an expansion into the United States, with headquarters in California or Texas.
“The expansion into the US enables us to stay here in South Australia keep investing here and working with Department of Trade to deliver an Australian-made product which is regarded as very high quality into the US,” Hickmann said.
However, he said VAILO is still committed to returning some of the industries lost to SA, such as old forging techniques and die casting.
“We’ve got a long-term vision to bring some industries that are no longer here back to South Australia,” he said.
“It’s not just headcount in VAILO but it’s about supporting industry that we’re looking to further grow as well. So, as long as we have the support from the market, which we know we will and we’ve got a great product.
“The sky’s the limit and we can create a lot of jobs here in South Australia.”