Long-Time Ocean Springs Industry Moving Out

The president of Ferson Optics remembers the days when the 80-thousand-square-foot building on Government Street was bustling with activity.

"There were machines from wall to wall, and we had people running the machines," Louis Peters said.

At one time, more than 300 employees worked in the building, making optical lenses, filters and prisms for microscopes, telescopes, even military missiles.

"We're continuing to make optical components, but we're also going to make optical systems that are going into helicopters, laser printer systems, fax machines. We've made systems that have gone into satellites," Peters said.

Now, the only sound in the vacant building comes from workers loading up equipment, furniture and supplies. After 53-years in downtown Ocean Springs, Ferson Optics is closing its doors and moving to smaller quarters in the Sunplex Industrial Park.

"When we were making parts for Bausch & Lomb, we were making an excess of 20,000 components a month. It took quite a number of hands to make those components. When Bausch & Lomb left the microscope market, we reduced to what we currently have, something less than 20 employees," Peters said.

Another reason behind the move, has to do with the building's owner. The Leica Corporation is trying to sell the building to another industry.

"Leica decided not to renew our lease, probably 6 or 8 months ago, and they wanted to fill this building. The building's actually too large for our business plan going into the future, so we decided to look for another building."

Cynthia Fisher is one of the 17 remaining employees who are moving to their new home. She has worked for the company for 30-years.

"It's bittersweet. There are a lot of memories, a lot of old friends that have gone, that have worked here and have left," Fisher said.

But moving will bring new memories and new business.

"Our parent company in California is working on a product. We're developing a product that we hope to introduce in the next few months, not only introduce, but hopefully manufacture here in Ocean Springs," Peters said.

Peters hopes the new product will help the company expand and boost business once again. Fred Ferson of Biloxi started the business in 1943. The company is now owned by OSI Systems, based in California.