Nick Dreystadt is an Unsung Hero of American business.
In 1933, the engineer knocked on the boardroom door at General Motors (NYSE: GM) and asked to be heard for ten minutes. He said he could take GM's most problematic division and make it profitable within 18 months.
Dreystadt made a very bold claim: The GM division at issue commanded the highest prices, but it also shouldered the highest costs, and by a wide margin.
Then there was the small matter of timing. It was also the middle of the Great Depression. But Nick Dreystadt nevertheless thought he could sell Cadillacs.
His two-pronged plan was as simple as it was controversial.
Dreystadt told the board he would end a longstanding GM policy that barred dealers from selling Cadillacs to African-Americans, thus opening up a huge new market. Affluent blacks, Dreystadt noted, could not move into "rich" neighborhoods. They couldn't join country clubs. But many professionals could easily afford the pricey cars, and it simply didn't make sense not to sell to ready buyers.
Second, Dreystadt said he would cut costs -- Ruthlessly. Cadillac had a culture of being an undisciplined and inefficient GM unit -- it didn't even make a profit in the booming 1920s...
GM decided to give Drystadt what he wanted, and under Dreystadt's leadership, the division changed its entire modus operandi, with unflinching attention paid to the smallest detail.
Dreystadt's Cadillac produced a super-premium automobile whose costs were no greater than a Chevrolet. Sales soared as costs fell, Cadillac did extremely well, Dreystadt earned accolades, and General Motors showed a profit every year of the Great Depression.
There's nothing like a happy ending.
That's a great story -- a great American story.
It's also surprisingly relevant today.
Economic downturn or not, leading American companies are now doing what Dreystadt did 80 years ago. They are refusing to accept a little thing like the worst economy since the Great Depression to get in the way of success. These companies are creating products and services that are so compelling, that even the most careful budgeters are willing to spend money on them.
In my newsletter, Game-Changing Stocks, I look for innovation. I look for what's new. What is a "must have." And what has room for growth, thus continuing to drive profits and share prices higher.
Today, I want to tell you about a company that is doing just that...
Lighting Science (OTC: LSCG) makes specialty LEDs (light-emitting diodes) for residential, commercial and utility-scale applications or to retrofit existing infrastructure, like streetlights.
LEDs use significantly less energy than their incandescent brethren, such as the typical bulbs most cities use in their streetlights. These yellow burning lights use anywhere from 250 to 400 watts of power.
The technical specifications sheet for Lighting Sciences' Roadway Series Prolific LSR1 model of LED replacements shows they use just 50 watts, a literal fraction of the amount used by the typical incandescent bulbs used for streetlights.
That's major. Consider this...
Using a 50-watt LED array in 2,000 streetlights would only cost $11.40 per kilowatt hour -- that would save a city a whopping $45.60 per kilowatt hour over the price of using 250-watt bulbs. Multiplied over a year, switching to 50-watt LED arrays could save a small city up to $200,000.
And the savings are even more profound if the bulbs being replaced require 400 watts.
This cost savings is enough to get most cities' rapt attention. Boston, for instance, has 64,000 streetlights. Switching streetlights to LEDs can free up millions of dollars, which is a smart move in increasingly tight municipal budgets.
In addition to using less power, the LEDs also tend to last at least three times as long as conventional bulbs, which compounds their economic advantage. They pay for themselves on replacement savings alone.
This is big business for suppliers like Lighting Science.
Florida-based Lighting Science, with a market cap of $236 million, saw its revenue grow 69% from 2009 to 2010 and then gain an additional 105% the next year. So far this year, it is on track to generate a 22.8% gain, with $155.6 million in expected revenue for the year, based on first-quarter results.
Risks to Consider: Like most game-changing companies in their infancy, Lighting Science is putting all of its muscle into revenue generation and it has not yet shown a meaningful profit. The balance sheet for the first quarter showed very little cash on hand, though the company still had a lot of inventory and a significant amount of receivables.
Action to Take -- > Still, don't let that discourage you from investing in a company like Lighting Science.I know light bulbs aren't the sexiest investment, but just like Dreystadt's Cadillac 80 years ago, these new LED bulbs are indeed undeniable game-changers.