Pittsburgh woos Slovenian lighting firm searching for HQ

Jeremy Boren
| Sunday, April 21, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

A Slovenian LED lighting maker is spotlighting Pittsburgh as a potential headquarters for a streetlight manufacturing facility and a model for energy-efficient lighting.

Representatives of Grah Lighting met last month with government officials from Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and Pennsylvania eager to attract the international company known for producing LED bulbs that go in high-end car brands including Mercedes, Audi and BMW and outdoor streetlights.

“What they want is a model, so they would take the city of Pittsburgh and create an LED streetlight city,” said Councilman Bill Peduto, a Point Breeze Democrat. “In return, they would make their North American headquarters in that city, in Pittsburgh, and their manufacturing plant, as well, for all their North American LED lights.”

Jurcek Zmauc, Slovenia's consul general to 10 U.S. states, said Grah Lighting is considering three cities for its streetlight manufacturing plant — Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Denver. Zmauc, who is based in Cleveland and helped organize the visit to Pittsburgh, said the facility would employ a minimum of 100 people.

“It's a win-win situation. (Grah) is prepared to come to the American market not only to sell his product but also to produce it in the American market,” Zmauc said of Robert Grah, the company's managing director.

Grah Lighting representatives could not be reached.

Officials representing Gov. Tom Corbett, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, and RIDC met with Grah officials.

Matt Dinkel, a spokesman for Doyle, said the congressman's office is interested in working with local officials to make the region an attractive choice for Grah.

In a letter dated March 20 to Grah representatives, county Economic Development Director Dennis Davin offered to assist the company through “loans, grants or other assistance” if Grah decides to open a facility here.

“Your decision to manufacture in and distribute your market-leading LED lighting product from Allegheny County would be a win for this region and signal the progress being made here in the field of green manufacturing,” Davin wrote.

Peduto said Pittsburgh caught the company's interest in part because of a 2005 initiative to install LED streetlights in city business districts, beginning with Shadyside's Walnut Street in Peduto's council district.

The city plan eventually would replace 32,000 more streetlights with LED bulbs, which could reduce energy consumption by up to 70 percent, according to a study by the Pittsburgh Climate Action Plan.

Grah Lighting is the largest producer of LED lights in Europe, Peduto said.

Peduto said a prime potential site for a facility could be the 178-acre former LTV Steel Co. site in Hazelwood owned by Almono LP, a coalition of nonprofit agencies managed by the Regional Industrial Development Corp.

“That makes sense to be down there,” Peduto said, citing the site's proximity to Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, which have LED researchers.

Peduto said he plans to meet with a wind-turbine manufacturer from Minnesota that might be interested in Pittsburgh.

“It's that type of light manufacturing and renewable energy based upon technology that ... that site was made for, along with green, modern housing that you can't get somewhere else,” Peduto said.

Jeremy Boren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7935 or jboren@tribweb.com.

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