Brothers hoping LED business shines
On Pennsylvania's economic Richter scale, JKB Services of Warminster, with a workforce of just two, barely registers.
But just wait, say those employees, brothers John and Walter Bloom.
"The sky's the limit," John Bloom said of JKB's potential. "Microsoft started in a garage."
It's likely JKB won't have that kind of seismic evolution. But the Blooms do have ambitious plans for their lighting company, inspired by the widespread emphasis on energy conservation.
They hope to open a manufacturing plant for light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, in Pennsylvania, possibly in their hometown of Warminster, by January. The initial staff size for the facility, whose estimated cost is $3 million to $5 million, would be 14, including office personnel, mechanical designers, and machine operators.
LEDs, most commonly associated with colored Christmas lights and control panels, are an evolving lighting technology considered more energy-efficient and friendlier to the environment than the more familiar bulb of the green movement, the spiral compact fluorescent.
Though still considered beyond the budgets of most households - a standard lamp bulb, 6 watts, costs about $70 - LEDs are becoming an increasingly popular option among communities and businesses, particularly for lighting streets and parking lots, because they are long-lasting and use far less energy.
A typical cobra-head streetlight would use a 35-watt LED, replacing a 150-watt bulb. The LED light would run about $350 vs. $20 for the standard bulb, but estimated energy-cost saving is about $100 a year.
As part of its state-mandated energy-saving plan, Peco Energy Co. is encouraging customers and contractors, through financial incentives, to consider switching to LEDs in traffic lights and exit signs, for example.
When the Blooms formed JKB six years ago, the company was doing primarily graphics and lighting work for Broadway and trade shows. Over the last two years or so, they have concentrated on building the LED side of the business, mostly by visiting towns and companies and introducing potential clients to the technology.
The effort has paid off. JKB now has standing to bid on the nearly 7,000 streetlighting units that 22 townships, most of them in Bucks and Montgomery Counties, are seeking grant money to finance. Contributing to this region's growing interest in converting to LEDs is the pending expiration of state-imposed electrical-rate caps at the end of next year.
Through a partnership with a California company, a relationship that recently dissolved, JKB was supplying LED lighting manufactured in China.
By becoming an independent company, the Blooms - Walter is 44 and lives at the Warminster home where he grew up; John, 41, lives in New York - said they would be able to realize their goal of establishing a manufacturing plant in Pennsylvania faster.
Why Pennsylvania? It goes beyond more than a fondness for their home state.
"The Eastern Seaboard [has] huge population density, it consumes a huge amount of energy, and Pennsylvania is smack in the middle of that," John Bloom said. "The opportunity to grow a business like this, especially in a climate like today - it seems crazy to me that someone hasn't already done it."
Contact staff writer Diane Mastrull at 215-854-2466 or firstname.lastname@example.org.