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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Calling Southern Oregon Home

In the Biz

Calling Southern Oregon Home

Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions

Story by Val Coulman

Photography provided by Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions

 

Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions, a technology company that supplies real time contamination monitoring systems and airborne particle counters, recently announced their intention of moving their corporate headquarters to Southern Oregon. It marks another step in their company’s journey to making Southern Oregon home.

Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions has had a presence in the Rogue Valley since 2003, when they began manufacturing particle counters in Medford. The choice made sense, says Dr. Tae Yun Kim, co-founder and CEO of Lighthouse. “There was a pool of talent here,” she recalls, along with the ability to run a cost-effective manufacturing facility.

“There was a lot of pressure for us to manufacture overseas,” recalls Paul Newman, who began with Lighthouse as an intern and is now Executive Vice President. “[But] Dr. Kim is totally committed to manufacturing in the U.S.” Their original designs have led to numerous applications in contamination monitoring solutions used in semiconductor, pharmaceutical, data storage, biotechnology, aerospace and defense industry plants around the world—industries that require highly accurate “clean room” capabilities.

The connection to Oregon also became a personal one for Dr. Kim, who last year announced her intention of moving Lighthouse’s worldwide headquarters to Southern Oregon. “I fell in love with the amazing beauty of Oregon,” she says. “Oregon offers a perfect home to let the Lighthouse team combine their passion for technology with a focus on providing clean healthy environments to live and grow.”

Their newest product in development for the general market exemplifies that vision. “We have learned a tremendous amount from working in the clean room area,” says Newman. “Dr. Kim has challenged us with creating a product that will take any room and create a safe, healthy space.” It had been through several prototypes, admits Newman, but the product became a company priority when the team realized how hazardous air quality can be after being in the Rogue Valley during the worst of the forest fire season in 2017.

A History of Change

You can’t look at Lighthouse for very long without encountering its colorful and dynamic CEO (see sidebar). Dr. Kim has been the driving force behind the company since it was founded in 1982. Then a martial arts instructor in Vermont, Kim remembers going to one of her students, an engineer at IBM, and telling him, “‘I need to start a computer company.’ He thought I was crazy.”

Scott Salton, that student and eventual co-founder and president of Lighthouse, agreed. “I did. I thought she had totally lost her marbles. But,” he recalls, “she had so much energy, so much enthusiasm” that they eventually began by producing two video games based on Bible stories on a Commodore 64. “There was a revolution going on,” reminds Salton. It was the early days of the PC and the technology industry was going through massive changes. “We put it together out of pure energy.” And, he also admits, “We didn’t know anything about business.”

After a few false starts, Kim realized that California was the hub of technology research and convinced her team to relocate. “I felt like the Beverly Hillbillies,” remembers Salton, as they loaded up and drove the dream to California where they set up a new martial arts school, and continued to advance in their technology knowledge. A consulting contract turned into a profitable partnership as they developed the first Windows-based monitoring system that could display multiple views side by side for a real-time monitoring of sensor systems. “We became a system integrator,” says Salton of those years. It lasted until the end of 2001 when their main sensor supplier abruptly severed their connection. “That was a real critical inflection point,” says Salton. “We were so into software that I thought that was our future.” 

Kim thought otherwise. Sending her team back to school, Lighthouse produced their first sensor in six months, even displaying it in a plexiglass case when it debuted to be sure her competitors understood it was new technology they had developed. “All of the sensor issues we had struggles with in the past,” says Newman, “we solved in our new designs.” The company’s refocus also began their connection with Southern Oregon when production began here. 

Looking Ahead

Among the many awards and accolades that Dr. Kim and Lighthouse have won over the years, and through each iteration of the company’s history, Kim holds the company true to their original vision: using computers to benefit people. Her adaptive strategies have kept the company at the forefront of their industry, and in 2017 led to two global Stevie Awards for Women in Business for the company: Best New Product of the Year for their Active Count 100H, and a personal award for Lifetime Achievement for Dr. Kim. Acknowledging the honors the many awards represent, Kim adds, “When I can make a difference in people’s life, that is my reward. I think we can make a tremendous contribution to society.”

Kim is excited about bringing the company headquarters to Southern Oregon and also plans to be actively involved in supporting education and providing new work options to students here in Oregon. “I want to make the state of Oregon the healthiest place, and the most interesting place,” she says. While the timeline for completing the move is still in process, Kim laughs in her characteristic fashion, “My way? I want it done yesterday.”

 

Sidebar

Tae Yun Kim was born in South Korea in 1946 under a triple curse: She was the firstborn, it was a Lunar New Moon, and she was a girl. In the culture of the time, those three together were considered catastrophic for her family.

The Korean War began when she was five years old and her family abandoned her as they fled the war zone. She eventually reunited with her family, and then defied tradition by begging her uncles to train her in Tae Kwon Do.

Despite her family’s active attempts to squelch such shocking behavior, young Tae Yun continued to train. In frustration, her family turned her over at age eight to an equally unconventional Buddhist monk who saw her potential and himself broke over 5,000 years tradition by training her as his pupil and helping her become a teacher of martial arts. Kim went on to become the first woman in recorded Korean history to achieve the rank of black belt in a martial art.

Moving to the U.S. in 1969, Kim’s list of firsts has continued to expand as she refuses to be limited by conventions—the first woman knighted as a Chevalier, the first woman invited to speak at the Korean Military Academy, founder of the martial art of Jung SuWon—and she continuously steps out to face the challenges of culture and business.

Her own story as a warrior fuels both her personal life and her company. “I like to create things,” says Kim. Author, fashion designer, TV personality, cooking enthusiast, avid gardener, and technology CEO, Kim approaches each day as an adventure. “Rejoice in the lesson of the pain and hurt. It gives you strength, it gives you courage. You have the power to change,” she says.

Her latest book, titled Seven Steps to Inner Power, is based on the lessons she has learned over her lifetime and the concepts she still uses to run her company today. It releases May 1, 2018.

 

Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions

www.golighthouse.com

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