Cree, the maker of energy-efficient LED lights, announced a new surge of hiring that will swell the company’s ranks by 575 workers in the state.
In a staged event at its Durham headquarters this afternoon that included Gov. Bev Perdue, Cree CEO Chuck Swoboda said the company expects to fill 275 of those jobs this year and fill the remaining 300 openings by the end of 2012. The expansion will significantly boost Cree’s local staff of 1,500 as the company rides the green energy wave.
“We are seeing tremendous growth for LED lighting,” Swoboda said, in a prepared statement. “Energy-efficient lighting has its roots right here in North Carolina and Cree is proud to be bringing more green jobs to our state.”
In August, Cree also began making and assembling LED lights in Charlotte with contract manufacturer Flextronics.
Cree’s is the second major local jobs announcement this week, on the heels of parachute maker North American Aerodynamics’ plans to hire 375 people in Roxboro to fill a U.S. Army contract.
But the good news was overshadowed by computer maker Dell’s news Wednesday that it will shut down its plant in Winston-Salem and idle 905 workers.
Cree is one of the most successful homegrown businesses the Triangle has ever spawned, an outgrowth of a N.C. State University research project that that is now traded on the NASDAQ stock market. Originally Cree developed early-generation light emitting diodes for mobile phones, car dashboards and computer monitors.
But rapid advancements in semiconductor technology are pushing LEDs to new applications in lighting for streetlights, offices, homes, hotels and restaurants.
LED lights can last more than two decades and are sometimes referred to as semi-permanent fixtures. At the same time, LEDs are up to 90 percent more efficient than conventional lights. As the price of LEDs comes down and quality improves, LEDs are increasingly seen as the future of electric lighting that will eventually render incandescent bulbs obsolete.
The recent national push for energy-efficiency coincides with quality improvements that together are creating new demand for LEDs in a wide range of uses. Raleigh is among the cities that’s testing LEDs in streetlights and parking decks.
As one of the world’s top LED manufacturers, Cree is poised to get a major boost from the transition to efficient lighting.
“Business is very good for Cree and they're struggling to add capacity,” said Harsh Kumar, an analyst who follows the company’s stock with Morgan Keegan & Co. “As the federal stimulus money is kicking in, as the population is becoming more green, LED lighting is a very compelling product.”
Last month, Cree sold nearly $400 million worth of new shares on Wall Street, with about $150 million earmarked for expansion.
Cree's stock has more than doubled this year.