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.
"This would not happen if city didn't trust us," Lepard said.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318.