Mayor-elect Bill Peduto woos Slovenia LED firm

Company's CEO eyeing entrance into U.S. market

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Robert Grah, head of a Slovenian company that makes LED lights, found himself Wednesday at a massive warehouse in the Strip District, at a brownfield site in Hazelwood and atop Mount Washington, taking in sweeping views of the city.

Mr. Grah, 48, is head of Grah Lighting, one of Europe's largest LED-light manufacturers. As he eyes an entrance into the American market, Mayor-elect Bill Peduto is hoping Pittsburgh will catch his gaze.

Mr. Grah plans to create an American base for his company and a manufacturing facility and has narrowed candidates to a handful of cities, including Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Denver. On Wednesday, Mr. Grah visited Pittsburgh for the second time. He had breakfast with Kevin Acklin, the head of Mr. Peduto's transition team, and then was taken on a whirlwind tour of the city.

His first stop was the former Crucible Steel mill in the Strip District, a potential site for the company's headquarters and manufacturing facility. He later was shown the Almono site in Hazelwood, slated for residential and industrial development. The group also traveled to Mount Washington.

Mr. Grah said he also met with two local investors who committed $3 million to the venture if he located in Pittsburgh. He declined to identify them.

He said he has been impressed by Pittsburgh's efforts to lure him to the city, which included a visit by Mr. Peduto, a city councilman, to the company's Slovenian headquarters. But he was coy when asked if he was closer to a decision.

He said he's not interested in "incentives" or public money, but rather a city that would become a customer of Grah by purchasing the street lights it manufactures.

"That is for me the most important incentive," he said, speaking Thursday on the phone from Cleveland. "If we are going to produce the lamps, we will need to know where to sell the lamps ... that is always the hardest part."

Mr. Peduto, a longtime proponent of LED lighting who created a pilot program for LED street lamps in his council district, has said this sort of partnership would be a possibility.

Mr. Grah said his goal isn't just to make inroads in the American market, but to help the community.

"Everybody [is trying] to sell something to America from Europe," he said. "I don't want to [just] sell something. I would also like to do something for America."

Moriah Balingit:, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee.

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