Lumileds maintains manufacturing focus in Silicon Valley

SAN JOSE — Some experts maintain that California’s forbidding business climate undermines the Golden State’s factories, but Lumileds defies that conventional wisdom with its San Jose operation that manufactures lighting products.

“This seems like a miracle because we are making products in the most expensive place in the world to manufacture,” said Sunil Thomas, general manager of the Lumileds operation in north San Jose. “Yet we still here.”

San Jose-based Lumileds, in its factory at 370 W. Trimble Road, makes an array of LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, as well as other lighting products, that are produced for automotive, general lighting and specialty lighting uses.

Lumileds employs about 600 people at the north San Jose complex, of which 400 are involved in manufacturing, according to Thomas.

“We are the second-largest automotive lighting company in the world and we are in great many of the cars in the world,” Thomas said. “We are also a very prominent supplier of lighting for mobile applications such as smart phones.”

Among the specialty applications for the Lumileds products: stadium lighting and outdoor lights.

“There is not one secret sauce that enables us to be a competitive manufacturer in the Bay Area,” Thomas said. “We continuously innovate the manufacturing process. We have an entire team that constantly redesigns a lot of our equipment. We are always under pressure to reduce our manufacturing costs.”

The company’s foes can be found in countries — and a region of the United States — that are famed for cut-rate manufacturing.

“China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Germany, even North Carolina, are homes to the competition,” Thomas said. “The competition is global.”

All of that means Lumileds must remain a nimble manufacturer.

“We created a technology that was great for mobile applications, particularly smart phones, but even with that success, we had to keep looking for other markets,” Thomas said. “We found …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Business


Could suspicious Oakland fires ignite housing prices?

OAKLAND — Rising up from the charred wreckage of what had been a sleek residential development nearing completion, a sign still stands: “Now selling … New solar, all-electric townhomes.” Behind it, blackened walls sag above piles of twisted, burned rubble.

After a massive fire gutted the Ice House townhome project in West Oakland on Tuesday — the latest in a series of suspicious blazes targeting residential construction projects — developers and housing experts say the fallout could ultimately hit the pockets of Oaklanders already struggling to rent or own homes in the city.

The fires have delayed the construction of hundreds of homes that advocates say are needed to help address the city’s housing shortage, and builders are tripling or quadrupling their security spending to protect against arsonists, bracing for higher insurance costs and considering switching to more expensive fire-resistant building materials.

“The truth of the matter is, that’s just going to jack up the price of housing,” said Greg McConnell, president and CEO of the Jobs and Housing Coalition, which represents developers and other major employers in Oakland.

Oakland is in the midst of a major building boom that’s changing the face of the city as it brings scores of large developments to house the hordes of people clamoring to move in. Officials permitted 4,284 residential units last year, up from just 274 in 2012. But over the past two years, five fires have targeted four residential construction projects in Oakland and Emeryville, impacting more than 550 housing units in the pipeline. One of those, a 105-unit building on the Oakland-Emeryville border burned once, was rebuilt, and then burned again. A sixth blaze destroyed a luxury apartment complex under construction in Concord last spring.

Officials say four of the prior fires were arson, and the cause of two, including the …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Business


How Gab became a white supremacist sanctuary before it was linked to the Pittsburgh suspect

An archived post from the social media site Gab, which is believed to be written by Pittsburgh shooting suspect Robert D. Bowers. HIAS, mentioned above, is a nonprofit group that aids refugees (AP/AP)

By Abby Ohlheiser and Ian Shapira | The Washington Post

There was a blue check mark next to Robert Bowers’s name, meaning that the social media account was verified. His bio said that “jews are the children of satan,” his banner image a clear reference to a white supremacist meme. His last message, posted Saturday morning, read, “Screw your optics, I’m going in.”

The account is believed to belong to the same Robert Bowers who is suspected of opening fire in a Pittsburgh synagogue, killing 11 people and wounding six others.

The profile, which has since been removed, lived on Gab, a social media platform that has become a haven for white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other adherents to extreme ideologies that have found themselves increasingly unwelcome on Twitter and Facebook.

Founder Andrew Torba has long said Gab is simply a “free speech” platform for anyone who wants to join, and has responded aggressively to characterizations otherwise. But the platform’s history is tied to the white supremacists and other far-right figures who joined in its first months and have contributed to Gab’s growth.

In the wake of the Pittsburgh attack, Gab and Torba have girded themselves for war. On his Gab account, Torba criticized mainstream media stories about his site and promised users that it would survive the increased attention. After Gab was banned from PayPal and received notice from Joyent, its hosting provider, that it would pull their service, Torba wrote early Sunday that “GAB IS NOT GOING ANYWHERE I don’t care what we have to do, I don’t care what it takes. We will build everything from the ground up if …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Business


When sports teams fleece taxpayers

Do taxpayers benefit from spending billions to subsidize sports stadiums? The data suggests otherwise. Here’s everything you need to know:

How are stadiums funded?
Public financing of U.S. professional sports stadiums has been common practice since the mid-1980s, with taxpayers shelling out an average of $400 million to build or renovate each of these projects. From 1990 to 2010 alone, 84 new arenas were built at a total cost of $34 ­billion — of which $20 billion came from taxpayers in the form of federal tax-exempt public bonds and tax credits. Even the wealthiest teams in the largest media markets have received huge public subsidies. When the New York Yankees opened their new $2.5 billion ballpark in 2009, almost $1.7 billion of the funding came from the public. The Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium — the first billion-dollar arena built specifically for football — enjoyed $444 million in public subsidies. And Miami’s $650 million Marlins Park — opened in 2012 — will actually end up costing taxpayers more than $2 billion over the life of the bonds Miami-Dade County officials used to prop up a private construction deal. To shake loose these enormous sums from elected city and state officials, privately owned sports franchises often threaten to move elsewhere. “Teams say to cities, in essence, ‘Give us $100 million or we’ll take away your status as a major-league city,'” says baseball writer and historian Bill James. He calls this practice “a classic, textbook case of abuse of monopoly power.”

When did this practice start?
With the exception of several stadiums built as part of Olympic Games bids, the first publicly funded professional stadium was Milwaukee’s County Stadium, which in 1953 enticed the Boston Braves to relocate to Wisconsin. But the game changer for publicly funded stadiums was the Baltimore Colts’ stunning 1984 move to …read more

Source:: The Week – Business


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