The bet that Bend, Ore.-based Zamp Solar made three years ago on U.S. manufacturing paid off this month, when the company was acquired by PulseTech Products Corp. of Southlake, Texas, for an undisclosed amount.
This story by Kathleen McLaughlin originally appeared in The Bulletin.
The deal with PulseTech will keep Zamp’s administration, engineering and assembly operations in Bend while bringing an infusion of capital to help Zamp keep up with runaway growth and enter new markets, General Manager Conor Miller said. Zamp makes solar-panel modules and battery-charging kits for off-grid uses, primarily RVs. But there’s potential for growth in agricultural and industrial uses, and that’s where PulseTech comes in.
The Texas company has proprietary charging technology that extends the life of 12-volt and 24-volt batteries by preventing corrosion. PulseTech devices are sold to a variety of industries, including the U.S. military. The fact that Zamp Solar is one of the only companies making solar panels for off-grid uses in the U.S. made it a very attractive acquisition, PulseTech founder Pete Smith said.
The acquisition closed on Feb. 3. The companies will continue to operate separately while working to combine their technologies into a new product line, Miller said. He declined to discuss Zamp Solar’s revenue, but he said the employee headcount has grown from 15 two years ago to 35 last year to 53 this year.
With the acquisition, Zamp co-founder Steve Nelson stepped down as president but is still an investor in the company, Miller said. Co-founder John Yozamp exited the company in 2016, he said.
Miller joined Zamp three years ago to help Nelson and Yozamp set up local manufacturing and stop importing. At the time, Miller said his main argument for U.S.-based production was to give the company more control over pricing and quality. A new tariff on Chinese imports has since given Zamp a competitive price advantage, Miller said.
Zamp still imports a few module sizes from India and Canada, he said, but most of its products are made at the Jamison Street headquarters on the north side of Bend. Zamp buys photovoltaic cells from SolarWorld in Hillsboro and assembles them into panels with output ranging from 10 watts to 230 watts.
Local production has allowed Zamp to do custom projects for RV makers like Winnebago, which wanted to fit a 200-watt array onto the roof of a motorhome, Miller said. Zamp came up with a two-panel configuration consisting of a 160-watt square and a 40-watt rectangle, he said. That’s something other companies wouldn’t take on because they have to buy panels by the cargo container.