The Last Lamp
About six months ago, Fili was hired by Signify to document the closing of their light bulb manufacturing facility in Salina. I was and still am thrilled to have been involved in the sending off of this factory. Over its lifetime, the factory was under three brands; Westinghouse, Phillips, and finally Signify. It is hard to believe but over 5 billion lightbulbs were produced over the plant’s sixty-year operation.
There were so many elements of this project that blew my mind. From the furnace that had not been turned off in over fifteen years, to the delicate and beautiful molten glass ribbon that descended from the furnace at a 12mph pace. It is mind numbing to think of the number of man hours that have been worked in that building.
In a way, it is fitting that I should be there to witness the last operations of the lightbulb factory. Sixty years ago, my grandfather, Quintin Applequist, helped to design portions of the original tooling that helped get the place up and running. He got to know the man in charge of the construction and the two remained friends for many years.
Small Town Workforce
To small towns in the Midwest, factories have been crucial to maintaining the population. Skilled labor has helped towns like Salina keep from dissolving away into nothingness. Unfortunately, lower production costs in China and other developing countries coupled with a tax code in the United States that effectively encourages offshoring of jobs, have led to many small towns losing their industries and with them, the communities’ vibrancy.
Kubota Expands in Salina
However, this story doesn’t end with the closing of the Signify plant nor does it end with the gradual decline of Salina. Through encouragement by local politicians and economic development organizations, Signify is passing the facility to a new owner, Kubota.
Over the next year, Kubota will be refitting the factory to build equipment for their line of construction equipment. Not only were we lucky enough to document the ending of one era but also the beginning of the next. Kubota has hired Fili to film the transition. Already, an unbelievable amount of work is underway to remove the old high-volume light bulb manufacturing equipment and replace it with machinery to produce large construction equipment.
We were honored to work with Signify and we are honored to continue working with Kubota. The video attached to this post is what we shot for Signify. It was bittersweet to talk to individuals who had worked their entire career at this factory who were about to retire but had to close down the factory in the process. These are, for the most part, technically minded people who are usually focused on the job-at-hand. We were there for one of those rare times they allowed themselves to reflect on the job and what this place meant to them. As soon as we stopped rolling, they put on their game faces and went back to work…shutting things down.