October 31, 2014

Around the State

| 10/1/1998
Technology - Nearly four years ago the Pinellas STAR (Science Technology and Research) Center in Largo had few tenants and was struggling to survive. Today, the center is home to more than 20 mostly high-tech businesses and has just filled its remaining space with aerospace and defense electronics powerhouse Raytheon Systems, a unit of Raytheon Co. of Lexington, Mass.

The STAR Center, once a U.S. Department of Energy nuclear weapons facility, closed and was almost bulldozed in 1991. In 1995, the Pinellas County Industry Council (PCIC) bought it for $2.6 million and converted it for commercial use. Raytheon will produce cables for satellites, rockets and radios and provide synergy by outsourcing to other tenants within the center.

William Castoro, who headed the PCIC until June, attributes the center's turnaround to well-equipped facilities and incentives such as short-term leases and the "dollar-a-year" equipment rental agreement that gives companies two years to get up and running before committing significant money to machinery.

Castoro says he worked on the Raytheon deal for two years, and he praises U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, who heads the House subcommittee in charge of defense spending, for his efforts to help bring the company to the facility.

The last stumbling block was company officials' concerns over possible land contamination; the Energy Department cleared the way for Raytheon's move by accepting any potential liability.

Raytheon's operation, expected to be up and running by 2000, will fill all 300,000 square feet that remained vacant in the 730,000-square-foot center. The 400 new jobs, mostly local hires, will range from low-skill, entry-level posts paying $8 an hour to engineers earning $40,000 and up. Raytheon already has 1,400 employees at a plant in St. Petersburg, and 300 jobs from this plant will shift to the STAR center.

"It's been a team effort in negotiation that has led to this success," says Ken Hall, the new head of the PCIC. "Raytheon's been a willing tenant with patience in working through the issues, and we're happy to have them here." - Mindy Tanenbaum

LAKELAND - Integrated Computer Technology announced plans to open a call center in the Lake Parker Business Center. The 30,000-square-foot facility will employ 250 people initially, but could grow to 50,000 square feet and 1,000 workers. This will be the 31st facility for Langhorne, Pa.-based ICT Group, a call-center operator for Fortune 100 companies.

LARGO - P.C.B. Bancorp Inc. has merged two of its subsidiaries, Pinellas Community Bank and Anchor Savings Bank. The combined bank will be called Premier Community Bank of Florida.

SARASOTA - Sun Hydraulics Corp. (Nasdaq-SNHY) [Florida Trend, August 1997], a designer and manufacturer of high performance screw-in valves, will acquire Korea Fluid Power, the company's authorized distributor in Korea, for $800,000.

ST. PETERSBURG- Plasma-Therm (Nasdaq-PTIS), custom builder of equipment to manufacture computer chips, broke ground on a 32,000-square-foot research and development, laboratory and training facility next to its headquarters. The expansion will create 100 new jobs.

The American Lung Assoc. will build a new 10,000-square-foot "healthy building" to serve as corporate headquarters for its Gulfcoast Florida region. The building will have a healthy indoor environment, featuring non-allergic building materials and energy-efficient components.

TAMPA - JumboSports (NYSE-JSI) opened two new superstores in Brandon and Daytona Beach, creating 125 new jobs. The Tampa-based company now operates 59 sporting goods superstores in 23 states.

Pepsi-Cola opened the first phase of its Tampa expansion, a $12.1 million, 135,000-square-foot warehouse, marking the beginning of a $35 million plant expansion that will make Pepsi-Cola Tampa one of the world's largest soft drink facilities.

Federal Warranty Service Corp., which sells extended service warranties for home electronics and appliances, is moving its headquarters here from Buena Park, Calif. The move will create 180 new jobs averaging more than $32,000.

Meridian Refrigerated East, a division of Anaheim, Calif.-based Meridian Refrigerated, completed a $6 million expansion that creates the largest refrigerated warehouse in Florida and adds 15 to 20 employees to its work force of 47.

Tags: Florida Small Business, Politics & Law, Southwest, Business Florida

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