GGL buys vacant manufacturing plant, plans to add up to 400 jobs

As many as 400 advanced manufacturing, engineering, installation, and marketing jobs willbe created in Chattanooga as a result of significant growth that Global Green Lighting (GGL) is experiencing.

The company was first profiled on teknovation.biz in September in an interview with company founder Don Lepard, who also serves as GGL’s President and Chief Executive Officer. The interview can be found at http://www.teknovation.biz/2012/09/17/ggls-don-lepard-passionate-street-lighting-technology/.

We recently received an update on the progress that GGL has made since that interview. The company makes light-emitting diodes (LEDs) street lights, incorporates its proprietary lighting control system with the only utility certified on-board power meter, and offers an energy-efficient solution for cities, counties and other entities requiring lighting for large outdoor areas.

Lepard said GGL just acquired a 180,000 square foot building in Hixson, TN that was vacated several years ago by DJO Chattanooga, a medical device manufacturer that moved production to Mexico. In a June 2009 article in The Chattanooga Times Free Press, the closure was projected to result in the loss of more than 300 jobs.

GGL’s plans restore that number and at least another 100 by the end of 2013.

“We are installing two of the production lines (for LED lights) shipped from China four months ago that have been sitting in a warehouse while we arranged for the manufacturing space,” Lepard said. Two more lines from China are in shipping containers and should arrive later this month. He said GGL will install the four lines in its new facility this month, start testing them in December, and slowly ramp-up to full production beginning in January.

GGL’s rapid growth comes from a major contract that it won to install about 27,000 lights in Chattanooga, where the inaugural production from the Chattanooga/Hixson plant will go, and multiple opportunities with other local governments and universities are increasing the demand and the growth.

When production reaches full capacity, Lepard says GGL will be able to make 10,000 LED lights a month with one shift – 200 employees – and 20,000 a month with two shifts – 400 employees.

“It’s important that we keep our commitment to the City of Chattanooga to produce the lights they purchased from us here in Chattanooga and create jobs as a direct result of their commitment to GGL,” Lepard said.

“We have 22 cities that want a beta test deployment,” he said, adding that these alone could account for 700,000 LED lights.

A 30-year veteran in dealing with electronics in the Asian markets, Lepard now proclaims himself to be a conservative entrepreneur tree hugger. He notes that he was unsuccessful in securing a U.S. Department of Energy grant two years ago that would have brought the jobs back to this country much faster.

“Without the grant, we just went out and generated the badly needed revenue the old fashioned way,” he said. “We developed a product that offers a justified return on investment (ROI), sold it, and are using the orders and the profits to fund the moving of the manufacturing jobs back to the USA.”

Lepard admitted that GGL is “taking a hit on our bottom line profits as compared to making these lights in China, but sending the orders to the cheaper China-based subcontractors will not create the badly needed jobs in the USA which is our true objective.”

He added that the “lights are just a vessel in the growing Green industrial revolution, and we will use them to create these jobs.”

GGL will consolidate all of its operations in the new location. Lepard projects sales in excess of $100 million in 2013.

“We’re excited; we’re truly blessed,” Lepard said.

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