The Lightbulb World is Laughing at Cleveland




Mayor Frank Jackson’s call for bids to supply Cleveland’s LED lights for the next ten years yielded only one more interested party than he got when he handled the dealings in private.

The two players are both Ohio companies: General Electric of East Cleveland and ATC Lighting of Andover. Curiously absent is Sunpu Opto, the Chinese company Jackson initially planned to hand the contract to.

So far, the best explanation for the LED world’s lack of interest seems to be that the whole idea has no chance of working. That’s the view of Brian Cummins, a leader of city council’s opposition to the original no-bid deal last spring.

“They can try to spin it as the administration thinking outside the box, but they were so outside the box that it was unrealistic,” Cummins says. To him, that means the city’s dream of 350 new jobs as part of the contract has all but burned out. Even the two bidding companies probably haven’t met all the contractual requirements, Cummins says.

How the administration handles that technicality remains to be seen. It could bail on both bids and join a federal consortium of cheap-lighting alternatives. It could back away from its contract requirements, which could reignite the interest of other companies that have stayed on the sidelines. Or it could implement a network of charmingly atmospheric tiki torches to illuminate the city.

“I think it’s embarrassing,” Cummins says. “The LED industry has seen this play out. Everything that has been written about this ends up on industry blogs. Lighting manufacturers are well aware of what has occurred in Cleveland. I think it was a complete failure.”

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