Lawrence-based manufacturer of LED lighting seeking tax abatement for expansion

Here’s an interesting economic development project to keep an eye on: Lawrence may become a bigger player in the world of LED lighting.

Lawrence-based Sunlite Science & Technology, a manufacturer of LED lighting, has filed paperwork with City Hall to receive a 50 percent, 10-year tax abatement for a new headquarters and warehouse facility in the city.

The company is proposing to buy a vacant warehouse/office building at 4811 Quail Crest Place, which used to house Midwest Graphics. The company is estimating the project will have about a $2.3 million price tag to purchase and renovate the 21,000-square-foot facility.

Sunlite currently is a tenant in the Bioscience & Technology Business Center on KU’s West Campus, and it also rents some warehouse space in town.

The project is expected to create a few new jobs in the community. Over the course of the 10-year tax abatement, Sunlite expects to add 40 new employees to its Lawrence ranks. The company employs five people in Lawrence currently.

More specifically, the company is projecting six new jobs over the first two years — three production jobs with salaries of about $26,000 a year, and three professional jobs with salaries of about $50,000 a year.

But don’t expect for the city to have a full-blown LED lighting manufacturing plant, at least not in the near term. Sunlite currently manufactures its LED lights overseas, it says in its application to the city. I’ve chatted with a leader at the firm before, and I think most of what currently takes place in Lawrence is research and development, customer service and some distribution.

The company has been growing. It has one patent for a unique construction technique for LED lighting, and has another patent pending for a process that is expected to reduce the materials needed to produce LED lighting.

Company officials in their letter to the city do not rule out using Lawrence for a manufacturing site in the future as production levels grow.

The tax abatement request now will go through a formal city review process.

Information on the tax abatement request became available late Thursday afternoon, so I haven’t yet had a chance to get additional details from company leaders. But I’ll check in with them and report back.