Livermore, Calif.-based lighting startup Bridgelux opened its U.S. factory last week, emphasizing the potential that still exists for LED developers in the United States to be competitive with China.
The key word? Potential. Only 20% of the U.S. factory is dedicated to serving U.S. customer demand, COO Karl Chicca told me. The remainder is focused on R&D and trials of LED materials, chips and packages that can produce brighter, more compact and lower-cost lights.
Chicca said the goal is to increase production at the factory to meet domestic demand…if it comes. Otherwise Bridgelux will use Livermore for R&D and manufacturing its most proprietary technology, while using partners in Asia for the bulk of production. So much for the good news that Bridgelux’s factory is the first new fab to open in 25 years in the San Francisco Bay Area, right?
The plant has brought has 170 employees and a $3.6 million-a-month payroll to Livermore, with plans to add 100 staff members in the next year. But Bridgelux CEO Bill Watkins said Bridgelux could have a significantly larger impact on the community, given the right government policy.
“It’s more important than jobs, it’s about building an industry, people, ” Watkins said.…