Cree Inc. plans outdoor lighting test facility

Apr. 07, 2014 @ 03:36 PM

The Durham-based energy efficient light maker Cree Inc. plans to grow its Research Triangle Park footprint with the construction of an outdoor lighting testing facility.

The company makes light-emitting diode, or LED, indoor and outdoor light bulbs, fixtures and components.

Plans filed with Durham-City County Planning show that the company is looking to build an equipment shed and a 1,850-square-foot roofed open pavilion for lighting research on Silicon Drive where the company already has an auditorium and cafeteria, office space, a fitness area and warehouse space. The plans for the shed and pavilion were approved in March, and the cost of construction is expected to be $184,607.

“The space will be used to field test exterior lighting fixtures,” Frances Rodenbough, a spokeswoman for Cree, said in an emailed response to questions.

The company got some “pretty material exposure” in 2011 to the outdoor lighting market from the acquisition of Ruud Lighting in Racine, Wis., said Carr Lanphier, an associate equity analyst with investment research provider Morningstar.

Outdoor lighting hasn’t been “in their DNA since the beginning,” but he said it was a logical addition to their business, and the company continues to do well in it.

 “Because they are primarily focused on pushing new adoption, they’re focused on kind of being the leading provider of LED technology,” Lanphier said. “And so a testing facility is going to be needed to ensure the integrity of the materials they’re making. There’s a ton of innovation going on the LED space.”

According to the company’s 2013 annual report, Cree has manufacturing operations in North Carolina, Wisconsin and China, and has research and development facilities in North Carolina, California, Wisconsin, India and China.

The company said in the filings that it expanded its facilities in North Carolina and Wisconsin last year, and warned that type of investment takes time to become fully operational.

The company owns about 828,000 square feet of space in Durham, with most of that used for production, and owns another 163,121 square feet in the Research Triangle Park as well.

The company mostly produces its lighting products in a facility it owns in Racine and in a leased facility in Durham. The company leases 108,382 square feet of space in Durham. Last year, the company also bought a building at 4401 Silicon Drive in Durham for $1.84 million.