Lighting Standard Creating Jobs & Technology Revolution in America's Heartland

The upcoming transition to better bulbs has generated a lot of news. For the most part, the coverage has focused on the consumer impact – the new lighting choices, the benefit to their pocketbooks, etc.  That’s certainly been my primary focus – see my shopping tips here. Of course, there’s always also a healthy dose of coverage about the political shenanigans in DC.

But there’s an under-the-radar element to the lighting transition that’s worth noting – what it means for the lighting industry and lighting jobs right here in America.

As many of my colleagues have noted in their blogs – these lightbulbs standard have helped to drive a technology revolution in our Heartland.  Here’s a quick sampling.

In East Cleveland, Ohio, GE created the first Energy Star certified incandescent replacement LED bulb. And with 700 people already working at the campus, they are currently “hiring aggressively locally for engineering and design,” says Senior Physicist Gary Allen. Last year, GE invested $60 million to produce energy efficient florescent bulbs at its plant in Bucyrus, OH, creating about 100 new positions in job-hungry Ohio. And there are over 100 jobs posted on GE Lighting's website now.

TCP, a bulb maker in Aurora, OH, which makes bulbs for home improvement chains like the Home Depot, has invented technology that will allow the incandescent to become 50% more efficient and last up to twice as long. (Yes, that’s right – your incandescent bulbs have not been taken away by the standards, it’s just been improved.  That’s the beauty of spurring innovation). They also created: fully-dimmable CFL bulbs, bulbs with a wide color temperature spectrum, and CFLs that quickly get to full brightness—all solving problems associated with earlier CFLs. And they plan to bring CFL production back from China, opening a CFL plant in the coming year. When was the last time you heard of something like that happening?

Then there’s Lighting Sciences Group, a LED bulb manufacturer, which has gone from employing 50 people at its Satellite Beach, FL headquarters in 2009 to employing 300 today. “We’re the antithesis of what the economy is seeing right now,” says employee Jake Schellack.  And guess who they’re hiring – former NASA scientists. Seriously.  It’s an awesome story.

Cree, based in North Carolina, is another leading manufacturer of LEDs, which are 75 percent more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs and last up to 25 years. Cree recently opened a new LED manufacturing line in Durham and has plans to hire upwards of 800 people in the next few years.

And in Alpharetta, GA, a company called CSA has expanded its LED lighting testing laboratory operations. "We look forward to growing our business and expanding our labs and hiring more employees here in Alpharetta," said Rich Weiser, CSA Group vice president for U.S. and Mexico operations.

According to the NEMA, the major lighting trade group, more than 2,000 American jobs have already been created in new lighting factories here in the US as a result of the law.

At a time when our country needs some goods jobs and some good news, you needn’t look any further than the 2012 lighting standard that has spurred innovation, re-energized the industry and required top talent based right here in America.

And that’s something worth celebrating this holiday season.