Larry Powers, CEO, Philips Business Unit, Professional Luminaires North America, talks about his goals as chairman of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association's board of directors for 2008 and the integration of Genlyte into Philips Lighting's global lighting empire.
Q: PHILIPS' ACQUISITION OF GENLYTE WAS AN INTERESTING DEAL. HOW IS IT GOING?
A: Genlyte's integration into the Philips company is going very well. Philips is a very technology-driven company and a leader in lamps, ballasts and LEDs. The company is also the leader in luminaires in Europe and Asia. With the addition of Genlyte, Philips Lighting will become the largest lighting company in North America to include lamps, ballast, LEDs and luminaries.
Q: HOW ARE DISTRIBUTORS REACTING TO THE ACQUISITION OF GENLYTE BY PHILIPS IN THE MARKET?
A: Every distributor that I have spoken with thinks the acquisition of Genlyte by Philips is a very good thing. They believe as I do that it will accelerate the introduction of new energy-efficient lighting technology into our channel.
Q: WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR GOALS FOR NEMA DURING THE UPCOMING YEAR?
A: The major goal that I have set for NEMA is for us to get serious about energy efficiency. We will do everything we can to emphasize the importance of promoting energy efficiency to the government, regulatory agencies, our members and everyone in the electrical industry. All of us at NEMA are completely supportive of the green movement and we discuss it regularly, and will do all that we can to move it forward. We are also working hard to try to help prevent counterfeiting in our industry, which has become a very serious problem. We have published a brochure and white paper on counterfeiting and are trying to make everyone aware of the seriousness of this problem. Many unsafe products are being sold, and we want to do everything we can to stop this. We are working closely with other trade associations around the world to promote safe electrical products.
Q: NEMA HAS BEEN VERY ACTIVE LOBBYING FOR VARIOUS ENERGY LEGISLATION ON CAPITOL HILL. ARE THERE ANY NEW AREAS WHERE NEMA WILL BE FOCUSING ITS LOBBYING EFFORTS IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
A: NEMA will continue to work hard in promoting energy efficiency and safety. We are trying to stop all of the individual states from having their own electrical standards, because it's very expensive and difficult to administer. All of the standards should be national. NEMA will continue to lobby to try and stop counterfeiting. Many of these products are coming in from the Far East and we must do everything we can to stop them. NEMA will also be lobbying to promote candidates for state and federal offices that promote business-friendly agendas. The association works hard to promote manufacturing in the United States, and we can't be burdened with rules and regulations that make us noncompetitive in the world.
Q: WHAT WILL BE THE DRIVERS OF THE GREEN MARKET FIVE YEARS FROM NOW? GOVERNMENT INCENTIVES? COMPETITION (AMONG END-USERS' COMPANIES) BASED ON EFFICIENCY? ENERGY PRICES?
A: All of these factors. We need some help from government to encourage more people to embrace new technology and move faster to use the new energy-efficient products that exist today. As an industry, we will continue to introduce new and more efficient lighting products to include on a very large scale LEDs. We need to demonstrate that replacing and using the new energy-efficient technology is a good value proposition. You may have to pay a little more initially, but you will get a good return on your investment and help the green movement. We need to emphasize to the public their individual responsibility to become involved in the green movement and do their part.
Q: ARE TRADITIONAL ELECTRICAL DISTRIBUTORS IN A GOOD POSITION TO INFLUENCE AND HELP GROW THIS MARKET?
A: Distributors are close to the end users and they need to have knowledgeable people who can sell the energy story. They should take advantage of all the training available and become energy experts. They need to be calling on and promoting energy-efficient products to contractors, specifiers and end-users. Electrical distributors should work closely with their manufacturing partners and determine who is going to do what to grow this very important market. New construction is going to be soft over the next few years, and what a better way to grow your business than to get out in the market and sell energy efficiency.
Q: ARE DISTRIBUTORS MAKING GOOD USE OF THE GREEN MARKETING AND PROMOTIONAL MATERIALS YOU'RE PROVIDING THEM? WILL YOU BE STEPPING UP THESE EFFORTS IN THE FUTURE, AND IF SO, IN WHAT WAY?
A: We will definitely be stepping up our efforts in promoting the energy story. Every new product we introduce will have an energy efficiency story behind it. We have aggressive new product introductions planned to utilize all of the new energy-efficient lamps, ballasts and LEDs. The time is right to take energy efficiency to a new level.
Q: WHICH TECHNOLOGY — FLUORESCENT OR LEDS — DO YOU EXPECT TO SEE BECOME THE PREDOMINANT SOURCE FOR GENERAL LIGHTING?
A: Many products will be available that utilize the latest lamp and ballast technology. They will include both fluorescent and LEDs. There is no question that the LED market is going to explode over the next few years. It will soon be available in lighting fixtures for general illumination. So far, LEDs have been only in products for niche applications. That's going to change in a hurry. LEDs will be the dynamic growth market over the next five to 10 years.
Q: WHAT COULD NEMA BE DOING TO DRIVE GREATER ADOPTION OF ENERGY-EFFICIENT TECHNOLOGIES AND PROMOTING ELECTRICAL MANUFACTURERS AS LEADERS IN ENERGY EFFICIENCY?
A: NEMA will have a new website later this year where individuals can find information on energy-efficient lighting. The NEMA website will refer individuals to the various company websites so they can easily find information about energy efficient products. NEMA continues to promote energy-efficient products to our government and to lobby for good legislation to promote energy savings. I can assure you that we will do everything we can to promote the green movement and energy-efficient products to everyone we can influence — government officials, regulatory agencies, all NEMA members and everyone in the electrical business.
Who is Larry Powers?
Powers began his career in the lighting business in 1971 as a residential lighting salesman for Thomas Industries in Atlanta. He quickly moved to the company's corporate office in Louisville, Ky., in a variety of sales and marketing positions. He left Thomas after five years and went to work as national sales manager for Sarama, Philadelphia. In 1979, he accepted a position as president of Hadco, an outdoor lighting company in Hanover, Pa. Hadco was purchased in 1983 by Bairnco, the company that formed Genlyte in 1984. Powers was originally the president of the outdoor division of Genlyte and became president of Genlyte in 1993. In 1998, Genlyte formed a joint venture with Thomas Lighting, which Genlyte subsequently purchased in 2004. Genlyte was sold to Philips in January of 2008. Powers is currently the CEO of Philips Business Unit Professional Luminaires, North America.
Powers says his greatest accomplishment in the electrical/lighting industry was to build Genlyte into the “premier lighting fixture manufacturing company in North America and probably in the world.”
Hobbies and leisure time
Powers' interests include his family, church and golf.
Powers says he has a beautiful wife that he has been married to for 41 years and four children (two girls and two boys) and eight grandchildren. “They are the delight of my life,” he says.
A Really Big Deal: The Philips Acquisition of Genlyte
It was by any measure one of the largest acquisitions ever seen in the lighting market, when in late 2007, Royal Philips Electronics NV of the Netherlands, announced its intentions to buy Genlyte Group Inc., Louisville, Ky., for $2.7 billion.
The acquisition, which closed in January, followed Philips' other 2007 blockbuster — the purchase of Boston-based Color Kinetics, a leader in designing and marketing innovative LED lighting systems, and its 2005 purchase of Agilent Technology Inc.'s half of their LED joint venture, LumiLeds, for $1 billion. Philips is also a major player in the ballast market though its Rosemont, Ill.-based Advance Transformer Co. business unit.
According to Electrical Marketing's Dec. 7, 2007 issue, the Genlyte deal gives Philips Lighting a leading position in the North American lighting fixture market, provides it with access to Genlyte's extensive presence among lighting customers in North America and will speed the adoption of green lighting technologies in a broad array of applications.
Even before the Genlyte acquisition, lighting fixtures already accounted for a fairly sizable share of Philips Lighting's global sales. According to a September 2007 presentation to investment analysts by Theo van Deursen, the company's CEO, lighting fixtures for the commercial and residential markets account for 23 percent of the company's global sales, while lamps account for 43 percent of sales. Western Europe accounted for 45 percent of the company's total global sales and North America accounted for 23 percent of sales.
In 2006, Philips Lighting had global lighting sales of approximately $8.1 billion and 47,739 employees. With total 2006 sales of approximately $39.5 billion, its parent company, Royal Philips Electronics, is a diverse manufacturer of consumer electronics such as televisions, VCRs, DVD players, medical systems, and personal-care products.
Van Deursen said the acquisition was another major step for Philips in executing its strategy to establish a global leadership position as a provider of energy-efficient, solid-state lighting solutions. In a press release, he said, “It follows on our recent acquisitions of Color Kinetics, TIR Systems, Partners in Lighting International, as well as our earlier investment to acquire full ownership of LumiLeds.
“Besides growing our presence in North America, the Genlyte deal deepens our contacts to end users, such as wholesalers, contractors, architects and lighting designers, and helps us speed up the market rollout of more energy-efficient lighting and the introduction of new lighting technologies, like solid-state lighting.”
Genlyte designs, manufactures and sells lighting fixtures, controls and related products for a wide variety of applications, including solid-state lighting. Just under 90 percent of Genlyte's 2006 revenues were related to commercial and industrial applications, with the remainder in high-end residential applications. The company employs approximately 6,700 people. Philips said Genlyte had sales of around $1.7 billion in the 12 months ended Sept. 30. Philips Lighting's plans to extend Genlyte's activities beyond North America will also contribute to growth, the company said at the time of the acquisition.