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WRAL documentary features CEOs of Cree, Red Hat, and SAS

WRAL will air a documentary tonight in which CEOs of three North Carolina tech companies reveal the secrets to success.

The CEOs of Cree, Red Hat and SAS reveal how their companies earned billions while others went belly up.  The program is hosted by WRAL News anchor Gerald Owens.

Cree to open all-LED house in Durham

Cree will hold a dedication ceremony tomorrow for the house it helped build in Durham.

It's the first home from a partnership between the Durham-based LED lighting company and Habitat for Humanity. It's also the first Habitat house with LED lights in every fixture.

Dozens of Cree employees helped build it, partly as a philanthropic effort, and partly to demonstrate its LED lights, which last longer and are more energy efficient than traditional lights, reducing electricity bills.

The three-bedroom, 1,150-square-foot house is now home to the Rahlan-Ksor family, originally from Vietnam. Prior to moving in, the family of four lived in a one-bedroom apartment. 

Cree LED lights driving growth, Swoboda says

Cree's booming business in the LED lighting market is just gaining momentum, its top executive told shareholders and employees this morning.

LED lights, which use less energy and last longer than traditional bulbs, currently control about 4 percent of the $108 billion annual market for lights and lighting fixtures worldwide, said CEO Chuck Swoboda, during Cree's annual meeting at its Durham headquarters.

"That means 96 percent of the opportunity is still in front of us," he said. "We have to continue to innovate, drive adoption and lead the market."

Triangle executives win big in Charlotte

Triangle executives dominated an awards ceremony for Carolinas' entrepreneurs in Charlotte on Thursday night.

Of the nine winners, six were CEOs of fast-growing companies based in this area. The annual Ernst & Young awards give corporate leaders bragging rights with their peers, but also can help their companies attract customers and investors.

The local winners included Jud Bowman, CEO of Durham's PocketGear; Leah Brown, CEO of Cary's A10 Clinical Solutions; Craig Collard, CEO of Cary's Cornerstone Therapeutics; Lawrence Stern, CEO of Research Triangle Park's Talecris Biotherapeutics; Chuck Swoboda, CEO of Durham's Cree; and Stephen Wiehe of Cary's SciQuest.

Triangle entrepreneurs to convene at Charlotte awards

The last time, Jud Bowman went solo.

In 2001, when Ernst & Young first nominated Bowman as an entrepreneur of the year, the then-20-year-old traveled alone to Charlotte for the awards ceremony, figuring he wouldn't win. He did.

This week, when he returns to Charlotte as a finalist again, he'll bring his mother, girlfriend, and several board members and employees from the technology company he now runs, Durham-based PocketGear.

"We're thinking of renting a bus and all driving over together," Bowman said. "Even if I don't win, it's a great excuse to put on tuxes, drink some champagne and celebrate."

The annual Ernst & Young awards, now in their 24th year, have become prestigious recognition for the state's entrepreneurs. A caravan of other Triangle business leaders who are finalists also plan to make the trip to Charlotte. Most will bring spouses, children, employees, investors or friends as they bask in the limelight on Thursday night.

Durham to install Cree LEDs

Cree scored a coup close to home this week.

The city of Durham announced it will join Cree's LED City program, and add 573 LED lighting fixtures in three parking garages.

Cree started the program in early 2007 with Raleigh as the first participant. The program has expanded to cities across the country and around the world.

“Durham has been Cree’s home for more than 20 years, and we’re thrilled our hometown is joining municipalities" elsewhere in installing LEDs, said Neal Hunter, president of Cree LED Lighting, in a prepared statement. Hunter helped found Cree at N.C. State University 23 years ago.

Contest seeking savvy B-school students

What would you ask a couple of aging hippie ice cream gurus in 200 words or less?

The organizers of an annual CEO forum next month in Raleigh are holding a contest to encourage business school students to pose creative questions for the keynote speakers, the founders of Ben & Jerry's Homemade.

The "CEOs of Tomorrow" contest ends Friday and is open only to students at the UNC, N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest business schools. About 200 students have entered so far.

The contest calls for students to enter questions of 200 words or less to Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who started the iconic ice cream company. Then the public will vote on the finalists' questions.

Cree to add 575 jobs by 2012, plans Durham expansion

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's stock surge helping pay for expansion, hiring

Cree might get additional financial assistance from the state as it continues adding new jobs and expanding its Durham manufacturing plant.

But it recently received a bigger pot of money to pay for expansion, thanks to investor optimism about Cree's prospects. The company's stock has more than doubled this year as Wall Street bets that Cree will benefit from increasing demand for energy efficient LED lighting.

Bolstered by the stock's surge, Cree last month sold nearly $400 million worth of new shares and earmarked about $150 million of that money for capital expenditures.

"Business is very good for Cree and they're struggling to add capacity," said Harsh Kumar, an analyst 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."

Later today, Cree CEO Chuck Swoboda and Gov. Beverly Perdue are scheduled to announce "new green jobs in North Carolina" at Cree's Durham headquarters. Perdue's presence suggests that Cree could get more state aid.

Cree reports revenue, profit rise

LED maker Cree continues to prosper in spite of the recession, posting record quarterly revenue and higher profit in the latest quarter.

The Durham company announced after the markets closed this afternoon that it posted a profit of $9.7 million in the fiscal fourth quarter that ended June 28, up from $8.4 million a year ago.

The profit of 11 cents per share in the latest quarter was beyond the range of seven cents to nine cents that the company projected in late May based on higher orders for LEDs for light fixtures and for illuminating notebook computers and other gadgets.

"Our strong Q4 results were an outstanding finish to a very good [fiscal] year and reflect the succes of our strategy to drive growth in LEDs and LED lighting applications," CEO Chuck Swoboda said in a prepared statement. He added that the company's backlog in the current quarter "is very strong as we see growing demand across our LED product lines."

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