Business

New Cree production line to make LEDs more affordable

Posted September 20, 2010 10:24 a.m. EDT
Updated September 20, 2010 6:37 p.m. EDT

— Cree Inc. (Nasdaq: CREE) announced Monday that it would build a new production line inside its Durham plant, creating 244 jobs by 2013.

Gov. Beverly Perdue, U.S. Sens. Richard Burr and Kay Hagan and congressmen David Price and Brad Miller were at the company's headquarters Monday afternoon for the economic development announcement.

The new production line will produce semiconductor wafers used to make light-emitting diodes that are more than twice the size of those Cree now makes, company officials said. That will make LEDs, which are far more energy-efficient than incandescent light bulbs, more cost-effective, they said.

Perdue said in a statement that the company would invest $135 million in the Durham plant.

"Cree is proof that investing in innovation works," Cree Chairman and Chief Executive Chuck Swoboda said. "We are proudly building the world's brightest and most efficient LEDs right here in Durham."

Last week, Durham County commissioners approved $2 million in tax incentives for Cree. The company said it also was considering locations in China and Malaysia for a $392 million LED plant.

The state Economic Investment Committee also voted Monday to award the company a Job Development Investment Grant, which allows it to receive a refund of up to 60 percent of the state withholding taxes paid on the new jobs. If Cree meets the JDIG's annual performance targets, it could receive more than $2.2 million over 10 years, state officials said.

"These incentives were enough to kind of balance those scales and make it, frankly, at the end of the day, the obvious choice to expand here in Durham," Swoboda said.

The average annual salary for the new jobs will be $42,726, plus benefits. The average salary in Durham County is $57,772.

"These are important jobs, and one reason they are so important is this is a broad range of jobs," Durham County Manager Mike Ruffin said, noting some will go to engineers and others to production line workers.

An announcement from Hagan's office noted that Cree receives $39 million in federal economic stimulus funds as an "advanced energy manufacturing tax credit." The money supported another expansion at Cree.

Cree was founded in 1987 in Durham by former North Carolina State University students and now employs more than 1,700 in the Triangle.