Chattanooga-based business Global Green Lighting—which employs people who design and assemble low-energy lighting control systems—is in a critical phase.
"There are 26 cities who are watching what we are doing in Chattanooga," the company's CEO Don Lepard said. "It can take us to [an additional] 250 jobs by the end of the year. Everything is hinging on the success of what we are doing in Chattanooga."
The company's employees design and assemble low-energy lighting control systems. The products allow an operator to control lighting systems that use smart grid and fiber optic technology via the Internet from up to 35 miles away.
A recent BBC article discussed how lights similar to the ones Global Green Lighting creates can help reduce light pollution and provide a better view of the stars.
The lights have directional lenses instead of allowing for a 360-degree glow, which can cause a haze, Lepard said.
Global Green Lighting's first generation of LED lights and fixtures provide energy savings of up to 50 percent compared to traditional streetlights, according to its website.
The company has a contract with the city of Chattanooga to replace downtown's streetlights.
The project is behind schedule because the Global Green Lighting team had to add a metering chip to measure the savings, Lepard said.
The lights allow the city to pay only for the energy it uses instead of a flat rate, he said.
It allows for a "true dollar savings," Lepard said.
Global Green Lighting won the bid for the contract with the city in 2012 to replace 27,000 lights around the city.
Then, Mayor Ron Littlefield decided to only fund a third of the $18 million contract because the technology is new, Lepard said. If the first part of the project was a success, the city would fund the rest, he said.
The initial phase is 6,000 lights, and about half those have been put up near the Tennessee Aquarium.
Now, new Mayor Andy Berke and his team are evaluating all city government projects, including the one with Global Green Lighting.
"It's important to consider innovative ways to be more energy-efficient and reduce the amount of energy wasted throughout our city," Lacie Stone, communications director for Berke, said in an email. "That said, we are currently reviewing all of the functions and services of city government so that we can provide the highest-quality, most effective services at the best value to our citizens."
EPB spokesman John Pless said his company's team is acting at the city's request to install the lights.
Lepard said that a recent article on The Chattanoogan implied there was disagreement between Global Green Lighting and EPB and that the company abandoned its Soddy-Daisy location. But Lepard said neither is true.
"There seems to be some appearance of conflict between Global Green Lighting and EPB, and that's not the case," he said. "I can't say enough about how the city and EPB and Global Green Lighting have cooperated together."
The issue in Soddy-Daisy involved a grant that took a long time to get. In that time, the company—which had been in Soddy-Daisy for 10 years—outgrew its space.
The company's lease at its Soddy-Daisy location had also expired, so Lepard decided to move to an 180,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Hixson, Lepard said.
While leaders in 26 other cities are watching the company to see if it produces, Lepard said he is working on a contract with the University of Alabama and also talking with leaders at Tennessee State University and the city of Nashville about the uses of the lights, which can help with safety issues and natural disasters.
The lights can be set to be turned on more during certain hours or in areas where there is an increased need for safety. And they have a flashing mechanism that can be used during emergencies such as tornadoes.
With the chance to add jobs and land big contracts in the works, Lepard said his company was born out of the recession and that his employees are tough.
"People in our company are very resilient," he said. "[We have] an entrepreneurial spirit to try to figure out what's going on and make things happen. It's going to be a huge success story as this thing keeps progressing."
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