St. Petersburg College, LED light maker team to train students

Tuesday, September 03, 2013
Katherine Snow Smith

ST. PETERSBURG — High-tech manufacturing jobs and a training partnership with St. Petersburg College are coming to Midtown. LumaStream, a maker of energy-efficient LED lighting, will hire about 20 employees, from engineers to assembly workers, by the end of the year at a building it’s leasing at 2201 First Ave. S.

LumaStream is also talking with the city about buying land and building a facility in the heart of Midtown within three years.

But long before that, students at SPC can start training on the company’s manufacturing machines in the interim 23,000-square-foot building on the north edge of Midtown. LumaStream provides the hands-on classroom and will get a specifically trained pool of potential employees. SPC provides the students who will be certified and possibly hired at the end of the program. SPC is paying a portion of LumaStream’s rent and covering instruction and administration costs with part of a $2.5 million grant from the Department of Labor.

“This is first time we have gone into somebody else’s facility like this,” said SPC spokeswoman Wilma Norton. “It’s fairly unique. We are very excited.”

The training starts this month and will be completed in three to six months. Participants will earn nationally recognized industry certifications that will also count as college credits toward an associate of science degree.

“We will hire a third to half of the students as we grow and the others will be well prepared with great skills,” said LumaStream chief executive officer Eric Higgs. “They will be making real products that will go out into the community. It’s not just making stuff that’s going into the recycling bin.” The students will make lights that will go into SPC’s Midtown facility.

The company, which Higgs founded in 2010, produced lights that are installed at the Museum of Fine Arts, Ovation condos, the Tampa Police Department, Yogurtology, the Chihuly Collection gallery, and Courtyard by Marriott in Washington, D.C.

LED stands for light emitting diode. A diode is a device with electrical current flowing through it. The St. Petersburg-based company has operations in Washington, D.C., Seattle, Germany and Canada. About 10 employees from Canada will be moved to the St. Petersburg facility.

Higgs is also a sculptor with works around the country and in Japan and France. In Florida, he created the sundial in North Shore Park as well as sculptures at Whole Foods stores in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach Gardens and Sarasota.

Tampa Bay Times