November 26, 2014

Around the State

| 2/1/1997
Century

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Connecticut-based sportswear manufacturer Starter Corp. closed its Century production plant, eliminating 235 jobs. In 1992, the company received five acres of land, a loan to build the plant and a 10-year property tax-exemption. Recently, Starter also closed its Pensacola facility with 157 jobs.

Lynn Haven

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AlliedSignal began a $4 million expansion of its disc brake pad manufacturing plant in late December. The company, which makes pads for Chrysler Jeep Cherokees and employs 230, will use the extra 45,000 square feet to gain additional contracts with Ford and Chrysler.

Merrick Industries, which makes weighing equipment and electrostatic precipitators that filter pollutants from smoke stack emissions, will add 22,000 square feet to its plant. The company is expanding its engineering and test facilities and will hire about 80 by the end of the year.

Panama City

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Regions Financial Corp. of Birmingham, Alabama expects to complete its $40 million acquisition of Panama City's Florida First Bancorp early in 1997. Regions operates 355 banks throughout the Southeast.

The Great American Bicycle Company announced plans to relocate to Panama City from Minnesota. The company makes a line of high-performance and mountain bicycles and hopes to complete renovation of its manufacturing plant by October.

Pensacola

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Monsanto announced plans in early December to spin off its chemicals divisions. The fate of the local nylon carpet staple plant and its 2,500 jobs remains in doubt .

Transportation and environmental consulting firm Carlan Consulting Group, which employs 75 in Pensacola and Tampa, has been purchased by Thermo TerraTech, based in Waltham, Mass. Carlan is operating as a regional division of Killam Associates, a subsidiary of Thermo TerraTech. Renamed Carlan Killam Consulting Group, the company provides infrastructure consulting and design to primarily public-sector clients such as the Florida Department of Transportation. Charles Carlan continues as president. Thermo TerraTech is a subsidiary of Thermo Electron of Waltham, Mass., which owns 18 subsidiaries and employs nearly 18,000.

Holding company and petrochemical, pulp chemicals manufacturer Sterling

Chemicals Holdings of Houston agreed to acquire the Pensacola acrylic fiber unit of Cytec Industries for an undisclosed amount. All 300 employees will be retained by the new company.

Three northwest Florida cities made the National Association of Home Builders' list of most affordable housing. Tallahassee ranked 33rd with 75.6% of housing within reach of the median-income household, followed by 34th-ranked Pensacola at 75.4% and 47th-ranked Fort Walton Beach, 72.6%.

SHIPBUILDING FIRM REBOUNDS

A Boom In Oil Exploration ...

... in the Gulf of Mexico and around the world has rejuvenated Eastern Shipbuilding Group in Panama City. The oil industry crashed in the early 1980s, sending employment at Eastern plummeting from 1,100 workers to fewer than 100. Now, the industry's need for faster, longer and better boats has Eastern Shipbuilding hopping: Around 250 welders and builders are busy refurbishing oil supply ships and constructing fast new ferries to carry workers out to exploration platforms.

Brian Petty, senior vice president of the International Association of Drilling Contractors in Washington, D.C., says the boom has come because oil companies did little exploration during the 1980s and now need to replenish oil stocks. Search efforts in the Gulf of Mexico using three-dimensional, sound-based technology have identified "promising" and "potential" oil fields so vast that they've turned heads. "The gulf used to be called ?The Dead Sea' in terms of its oil potential," Petty says. "Now, 10 years later, it's the most dynamic in the world."

Kenneth Munroe, vice president at Eastern, says the work is welcome, but finding skilled labor is a problem: "It's hard to get people back in the business. When the industry fell into a crunch, a lot of people went off and found jobs in other industries," he explains.

And despite the promise of new oil fields, the oil industry remains an uncertain source of business. "How long (the boom) will last is anybody's guess. Everybody thought it was going to last forever last time and it collapsed. We'll wait and see."

- Matt Moore

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

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