Home The Latest Change brightens lighting opportunities

Change brightens lighting opportunities

| Print |  Email
The Latest
Monday, October 04, 2010

By Michael Gurton

In September, General Electric, with its ties to American inventor and lightbulb luminary Thomas Edison, closed its last major incandescent light factory, laying off more than 200 workers.  The shuttering wasn’t the result of the economic downturn, but was due to congressionally-mandated changes in efficiency standards that have increased the adoption of new forms of lighting, such as the compact fluorescent lamp (CFL). 

The blame for the shuttering of this factory lies with GE, as many of the new forms of lighting that have gained market share in the wake of Congress’s mandate were initially developed, but not commercialized, at GE.  These new forms of lighting will transform Oregon’s homes, street and businesses and could serve as a boon to local manufacturers.

In 2007, Congress passed a bill banning Edison’s incandescent bulb by 2014, setting the stage for the growth of longer-lasting and more energy-efficient, spiral-shaped CFL.  CFLs -- developed by a research lab at GE in the 1970s, but never produced by the company --  are more expensive than incandescent lights because the glass lamps are blown and shaped by hand, mostly by Chinese laborers.  The sales growth of these lights has been swift. According to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, a trade association for lighting manufacturers, one in five bulbs bought in the US are CFLs.

Another GE lighting innovation, the light emitting diode (LED), produces a very high-intensity light with low energy use.  These lights, used for many years in digital watches, have a small diode instead of a filament that is illuminated by electrons passing through a semiconductor chip.  Unlike the CFL, LEDs can’t produce enough light for a whole room or work space but their long lifespan are ideal for industrial uses such as outdoor signs, traffic lights, bike lights and streetlights. 

According to Helen Vydra Roy, editor-in-chief of online publication New Streetlights, LED lighting holds great promise for US-based manufacturers.  “The major lighting companies like GE and Philips were not focused on roadway LEDs.”  This strategy, she states, “has allowed smaller, US-based players to move to the forefront.”  Vydra Roy makes the caveat that while these companies are US-based, the chips in the LEDs are manufactured in Asia.

Portland General Electric is currently spearheading several pilots with local municipalities to test the impact of LED streetlights.  Even though PGE’s self-funded pilot is not beholden to federal stimulus funding provisions that the lights must be assembled in the US, it could serve to jumpstart adoption of US-assembled LEDs. And at least one Oregon company is leaping at the opportunity.

Tucked in a non-descript Tualatin industrial park sits The Light Edge, a 10-year-old lighting manufacturer that got its start developing high-output fluorescent lights which are now installed in factories and warehouses throughout the world. 

Over the last two years, the company has created several LED products, including a streetlight that is currently used in many municipal pilots, such as PGE’s, throughout the Pacific Northwest.  David Gerton, company founder and president, sees the company’s LEDs, which are price-competitive with both American competitors such as Cree and Acuity and Netherlands-based powerhouse Philips, as a future growth opportunity that could put his company ahead of the curve.

While past missteps may have contributed to America losing its manufacturing might, there are companies, even in our own backyard, who are still on the cutting-edge of innovation and are seizing on the opportunities that come along with change.

Michael Gurton is the Director of MarketLink, a service of the Oregon Microenterprise Network that provides microenterprises and second-stage companies throughout Oregon with no-cost market research. The Light Edge is a non-paying client of his.

 

Comments   

 
Ricklight
0 #1 Tell the truthRicklight 2010-10-04 15:42:35
You start with false statements! The current noise that Congress had anything to do with GE closing a plant is pure politics. The job loss is bad news, but blaming Congress is ignorant ranting.

CFLs have been heavily promoted by power companies and money/energy saving people far earlier than the 2007 law. I saw my first CFL in a retail store in 1989. Trade and labor policies are far more to blame. However even had we all bought GE CFLs (at least the ones made here) the incandescent plant would still be closing. Times change, and energy is expensive.

The extreme drive to low cost products drove CFL manufacturing overseas. And it gave us one of the worst pieces of equipment ever. High quality CFLs work better and really last. There is a very real threat the same can happen with LEDs, and for the same reasons.

Making people angry at the government won't help.
Quote | Report to administrator
 
 
David
0 #2 David 2010-10-27 16:23:27
One of the things that business owners of commercial properties should be taking advantage of are the tax incentives and rebates associated with solar panels. You should fill out this survey to see if going green with solar panels makes sense for your business,
https://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?formkey=dE9vbWdEZ1ZXSFl3ZXpKaXVUUUE3Q1E6MQ
Quote | Report to administrator
 

More Articles

Is this employee right?

Contributed Blogs
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
081314 thumb employeefeelingsBY TOM COX | OB BLOGGER

When I say, “Your Employee is Always Right,” I do not mean “right about the facts,” but rather “right about how they feel” and “right about how they want to be led.”


Read more...

The global challenge

News
Friday, June 27, 2014
062714 thumb globalmarketBY JASON NORRIS | OB BLOGGER

Over the last several months we have seen a wave of cross-border acquisitions, primarily U.S.-based companies looking to purchase non-U.S.-based companies. There are a few reasons for this, but the main culprit is the U.S. corporate tax system. The United States has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world.


Read more...

Trends in business succession

News
Thursday, July 03, 2014
TrendsBY TED AUSTIN & MIKE BAELE | GUEST CONTRIBUTORS

The Office of Economic Analysis announced that Oregon is currently enjoying the strongest job growth since 2006. While this resurgence has been welcome, the lingering effects of the 2008 “Great Recession” continues to affect Oregon businesses, especially with regard to estate planning and business succession.


Read more...

Why I became an Oregon angel investor

Guest Blog
Monday, July 14, 2014
AngelInvestBY TERRY "STARBUCKER" ST. MARIE

I really didn’t know that much about angel investing, but I did know a lot about the entrepreneurial spirit.


Read more...

OB Video: Oregon MESA

News
Thursday, June 26, 2014

ThumbOregon Business hosts an informal roundtable discussion about the Oregon MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) program.


Read more...

Attack of the Robin Sages

Contributed Blogs
Monday, July 07, 2014
070714 thumb linkedinfakesBY TOM COX | OB BLOGGER

Named after the 2010 experiment by Thomas Ryan, "Robin Sages" are fake social media profiles designed to encourage linking and divulging valuable information.


Read more...

Risks & rewards of owning triple net investments

Contributed Blogs
Thursday, July 24, 2014
NNNinvestmentBY CLIFF HOCKLEY | OB GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

With the increasing retirements of Baby Boomers, a massive real estate shift has created a significant increase in demand for NNN properties. The result? Increased demand has triggered higher prices and lower yields.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS