By Paula Walter
The spec building in the Doe Valley area of Johnson County will soon be humming with activity. STARLED, Inc. has a target date of early next year to begin operations in Johnson County.
STARLED manufactures and distributes light emitting diode (LED) lighting products for commercial and residential space, in addition to marine and automotive use. The company has been in business more than 10 years with operations in Australia, New Zealand, Europe and Southeast Asia. They are currently manufacturing in China and will soon begin operations in Mountain City.
“This is a multiple phase project,” said Charlie Blanco, Chief Executive Officer. Initially, there will be approximately 10 employees to get the project off the ground, but it is anticipated there will be 50 jobs in the first year. STARLED will be searching for a senior manager to begin operations, and from there, they will build a team of people. They are looking to hire senior management, assembly workers and a warehouse manager.
Mayor Larry Potter has actively been looking for businesses to come to Johnson County and make use of the spec building that has been sitting empty for years. According to Potter, he recently was in touch with an old high school acquaintance, Brent Snyder, from Johnson County. Familiar with Potter’s interest in bringing employment to Johnson County, Snyder recommended Potter connect with Garry Garoni, chairman of STARLED, who had been a business manager for many years, providing energy efficient products that are environmentally friendly.
According to Potter, Garoni did research on this region of the country, and it was approximately a few weeks from their first meeting to sealing the deal. Johnson County is a strategic location for STARLED as they have warehouse districts in Charlotte, North Carolina, Atlanta, Georgia and Minnesota.
STARLED will finance outfitting the building and equipping it so business can begin. An economic development fast track grant of $275,000 was available to help cover some of the cost of getting the building equipped to begin production. The company has a long-term lease of 20 years with an option to buy. “This is a big commitment to our county,” said Potter. “We appreciate Mr. Garoni entering into a long-term partnership with Johnson County.”
LED lights are energy saving. They last longer, are more durable and offer better light quality than others types of lighting. LED lights are energy efficient and last approximately 25 times longer than standard lighting. They use 90 percent less energy than standard light bulbs and they are more cost effective. STARLED guarantees all its products for five years.
LED lighting is the most cost effective way to save energy. The amount of savings depends on the amount of space to be lighted. A standard light bulb will reach a temperature of 400 degrees, where an LED light is significantly less at 90 degrees. “People are becoming eco friendly, and LED is simply a way for someone to contribute to the cause,” said Blanco. “It’s a pioneer of the green movement,” said Blanco. According to Blanco, the product is easy to sell, it saves people money and the lighting comes in any color you want. “LED is a lot of color,” he added.
Currently, less than five percent of the world has changed to LED technology. Some of the businesses that have switched to LED lighting are Exxon Mobile, Hilton hotels, Hampton Inn, Carvel, Ford, Mitsubishi and high end car dealers.