One morning last March, engineers at GE’s Nela Park research lab in Cleveland, Ohio, opened a century-old time capsule hidden in a corner stone of Building 307. Inside the cavity and beneath a layer of sand was a standard 40-watt Mazda incandescent bulb made at the time of Thomas Edison. The engineers brushed off the dirt, screwed the lamp into a socket, and slowly powered it on. The bulb’s soft yellow glow was like a faint echo from the Big Bang that set GE on course to become a global industrial powerhouse.
But here comes the future. Two months later, researchers at the very same lab turned on a new LED that shines like a modern 100-watt incandescent light bulb but consumes a third less power as the Edison-era 40-watt lamp. They were standing on firm shoulders. It’s been 50 years since GE physicist Nick Holonyak invented the world’s first LED. “When I went in, I didn’t realize all that we were going to do,” says Holonyak, now 83 years old but still teaching engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “As far as I am concerned, the modern LED starts at GE.”
With 16,000 workers, including 2,100 in Ohio, GE Lighting remains a core GE business. According economic impact data gathered by the research firm TrippUmbach, GE’s 15,000 Ohio employees (including GE Lighting, Aviation and other businesses) directly and indirectly generate $11.2 billion for the state’s economy. Every 10 GE jobs in Ohio support 23 additional jobs in the state.
GE’s Ohio research also opens jobs elsewhere in the U.S. Last year, GE Lighting plant in Hendersonville, North Carolina, hired 100 new workers who manufacture efficient LED lights that illuminate streets in Las Vegas and Sydney, Australia, Walmart stores, and Marriott hotels. “Our customers want GE in the game because they love our quality and they love our commitment to them and their businesses,” said GE Lighting CEO Maryrose Sylvester. “They need people like us to step up and continue to invest in technology so they can save 50 or 60 percent of their energy costs and 80 percent of their maintenance costs.”
Says Sylvester: “We continue to be their partners in this revolution.”