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Global Green Lighting plans to multiply jobs
Don Lepard said he's moving ahead with shifting production of his innovative streetlights to Chattanooga from China, with plans for 250 jobs here, in part because of worries about the security of the technology.

"I'm concerned about losing that to China," he said.

The company's chief executive has set up shop in 180,000 square feet of space in Hixson. He said he's putting in production lines in the former Chattanooga Group space to make the light emitting diode street lamps which are combined with the latest smart grid metering technology.

Plans are to deliver 6,000 of the lights to the city of Chattanooga by the end of May, Lepard said. GGL will make another 20,000 if he's given the OK, he said. In all, he put the project at about $18 million.

Currently he has about 40 workers on board, which is slated to grow to 100 by midsummer. Eventually, plans are to reach about 250 employees, Lepard said. "It's time for us to put up or shut up," he said. "That's what we're doing."

In 2011, Lepard talked about growing his company after he received the Kruesi Award at the city's Spirit of Innovation meeting where GGL was cited for pioneering highly efficient lighting technologies. Lepard said his company's technology can save up to 75 percent in energy and maintenance costs over traditional lighting.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said in a statement that having "a strong technology infrastructure and supporting a culture of innovation will help us continue to attract companies like GGL and reach our goal of becoming the No. 1 state in the Southeast for high quality jobs."

Bill Hagerty, the state's economic and community development commissioner, said GGL is an excellent example of how innovation drives economic development.  "We are focused on supporting innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives," he said.

Lepard said that bringing subcontracted production back from China is costing him some profit margin. But, he said there's some advantage in terms of not paying freight and duties.

While many cities have already embraced LED lights as a way to reduce energy costs, Chattanooga is the first American city to combine LED lighting with a smart grid metering, wireless radio controlled and utility certified energy management system that will also slash maintenance expenses by as much as 75 percent.

"We are thrilled to execute our first community-wide street lighting project in our home city of Chattanooga," Lepard said. "Following Chattanooga's introduction of America's first community-wide fiber optic network, the city has continued to raise its stature as a smart grid city and haven for innovation. Our state-of-the-art wireless radio controlled street lighting system offers an unparalleled combination of energy savings and functionality."

Other cities are also taking notice of GGL's sustainable, low energy lighting system. The company is in active communications with 26 cities, the first of 250 identified in its target marketing strategy.

In addition, GGL also plans to market the lighting technology to private developments and enterprises which can tie their outdoor solar lighting into the same infrastructure used by the public sector. "It's the perfect example of the public and private sector benefiting together by sharing the advantages of a new technology," Lepard said.

With GGL's radio network lighting, the city can turn street lamps on and off in real time and tailor the brightness of each lamp based on a neighborhood's lighting needs. The system records the GPS coordinates of each lamp post and correlates the location with dawn and dusk times, so the lights only come on only when they are needed.

Each individual street lamp includes a residential grade meter and alerts maintenance workers via the wireless network when a bulb is out, power is lost, or if repairs are needed. Energy usage is automatically fed back to the local electric company billing system, eliminating the need for manual meter readers. In other words, each light auto meters and auto reports its status.
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