Is Toshiba going to be the next big Japanese manufacturer establishing a presence in San Antonio? If there’s a deal on the table, it’s still a well-kept secret. But there isn’t any doubt that serious talks with the Japanese powerhouse’s lighting and technology division are under way. What’s surprising is that nothing has appeared in print anywhere confirming the development.
The first evidence was found on Twitter. Doyle Beneby, CEO of CPS Energy and now a practitioner of social media with his own Facebook page and Twitter account (@doyle_beneby), sent this tweet on April 23: “Discussing opportunities for San Antonio with Toshiba lighting division.”
There’s no hint of foreign travel in that 140 character tease, but one day later Beneby fired off a second tweet at 12 a.m. CST, which suggests he is either a true workaholic or he was operating in another time zone. It would have been lunch time in Tokyo.
The Greenstar-Toshiba connection
“Presenting to Toshiba’s top execs about @CPSEnergy New Energy Economy and how SA is benefitting,” Beneby wrote. Forty minutes later, along came another tweet: “Learning from the Smart Community division.” That’s a Toshiba entity with a Japanese web address, and a new, direct connection to one of the seven clean energy companies Beneby has recruited to San Antonio by leveraging substantial contracts into reciprocal economic envelopment commitments.
Greenstar is one of those seven companies. Formerly based in Boerne and only founded three years ago, Greenstar’s new headquarters are located in northwest San Antonio near Tx. 151 and Loop 410 West. Greenstar is an LED (light-emitting diodes) lighting manufacturer that agreed to move to the city after winning a long-term contract to convert street lighting in San Antonio to LEDs, a conversion program already underway downtown. The replacement project calls for installation of 25,000 new lights in the space of one year, which will result in substantial energy savings citywide. Greenstar’s move here will only bring 30 jobs this year, but the potential for growth is clear. The company’s website cites a growing sales network extending throughout the United States and into the Americas. Greenstar has also made a commitment to invest in clean energy programs at UTSA.
More significantly, perhaps, Greenstar is said to have entered into an agreement to license production of LEDs that will carry the Toshiba brand name. Toshiba, like every other major Japanese energy company, is looking for ways to diversity its operations outside Japan in the wake of that country’s June 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant catastrophe and the subsequent decision this year to shut down –at least for the foreseeable future — Japan’s nuclear energy industry, a process that is nearly complete.
“If we can pull it off”
It so happens that Beneby also is writing a blog these days, and his latest posting confirms his efforts to convince Toshiba to come to San Antonio. You can click on the link for more context, but here are the relevant three paragraphs (italics are RR):
“In 2011, CPS Energy began deploying thousands of smart meters across the city, equipping customers to make better decisions about their future energy use. These smart meters are manufactured by Landis & Gyr, a leader in the global metering solutions industry, headquartered in Switzerland and recently purchased by Toshiba. The company is considering locating a technical and design facility in San Antonio, in order to support smart meters and has a division under Toshiba Corp.
“Modeling after Toshiba’s Smart/Sustainability City Pilot at the Fuchu Complex, CPS Energy is looking into a partnership to create a model home subdivision and develop a renewable energy innovation center right here in San Antonio. We are also looking to collaborate with Toshiba on utility scale battery storage research and pilots. This would be done using existing CPS Energy solar farms. If we can pull it off.
“We are excited to continue conversations with Toshiba regarding these initiatives that will, without a doubt, bring value to our San Antonio community. We will keep you posted as best we can and share these developments.”
Beneby’s office confirmed today that he traveled to Tokyo April 22-28. His blog post was published Wednesday. If nothing else, he has us reading.