LumaStream partnership headlines SPC Advisory Committee’s events

Sunday, September 22, 2013

If you’ve stepped into a Yogurtology in Tampa or strolled outside the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, you’ve seen the work of Eric Higgs in the lights. As CEO of local LED light manufacturer LumaStream, Higgs tossed aside the 130-year old technology of incandescent bulbs to develop what he calls intelligent lighting systems.

The low-voltage, highly efficient systems save money and the planet, a notion that Higgs says, “is just the right thing to do.”

To accommodate his booming business, Higgs recently moved his manufacturing base from Canada to Midtown St. Petersburg. He hopes to eventually employ hundreds of people, who will be trained by St. Petersburg College through a partnership and a $2.5 million grant from the Department of Labor.

“The target audience is hungry for this,” Higgs told a recent breakfast gathering of St. Petersburg College Advisory Committee members. “Midtown is an ideal location for a light manufacturing hub.”

What Higgs needs are skilled, trained workers. He expects to directly hire about half of those who complete the 20-week training program. SPC provides the instructors and courses and LumaStream provides the space, currently a 23,000 square-foot building on First Avenue South.

Graduates will earn nationally recognized industry certifications that count toward an associate of science degree, meaning they can literally go anywhere. Initial training will focus on CNC machining, a technique that requires technical and sophisticated computer know-how.

The other credential will be for MSSC Certified Production Technician. Participants also will gain business sense.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for students,” Higgs said. “They will not only learn their specific job but how their job impacts the organization. For instance, if a $5 part gets returned, it can quickly become a $500 part. It’s important that students and everyone in the organization understand that.”

So far, out of more than 120 applicants, 12 will begin training this month.

“They feel they are being honored and this gives them a special opportunity for their career,” Higgs said. “We are promoting the excellence of St. Pete College in our partnership. The college has moved at an astounding pace to make this happen.”

Workforce Director Jason Krupp added: “They are doing amazing things. We are very excited about this partnership. The training is designed to give people jobs quickly.”

Anne Cooper, Senior Vice President for Instruction and Academic Programs, also noted, “Our partnerships allow us to keep our programs on the cutting edge. When we come together, we improve our community.”