August 2, 2014

East Central/ Space Coast: Technology Rules

Research universities and skilled talent spawn innovative business 'clusters.'

Diane Sears | 9/24/2009

LAKE COUNTY

biodiesel
Raptor Fabrication & Equipment, along with four if its sister companies, is leading the effort to transform the region into the highest concentration of biodiesel plants in the country.
Turning green: Raptor Fabrication & Equipment Inc., which manufactures machinery that turns used cooking oil into biofuel, is working to create a cluster of green energy businesses in Groveland. The effort includes four of its own sister companies: a lab that handles biofuel research and development; a company that collects the discarded oil from restaurants; a firm that sells technology to operate biodiesel plants; and a company that will handle quality control issues at the plants.

Raptor chose Groveland because the small city on the southwest edge of Lake County had plenty of space for industrial facilities that would allow for welding, storage tanks and other large-scale operations, says Tom Gleason, company president. The group now employs 15 people and is planning to expand.

“We haven’t had any problem at all with the economy,” Gleason says. “We’re moving right along .... We’re working toward bringing more biodiesel companies to Groveland to boost the industry.”

So far, that plan seems to be working; at least two other green-oriented companies not directly affiliated with Raptor have set up shop in the area. Gleason’s goal is for the region to house the highest concentration of biodiesel plants in the country.

To your good health: The wellness industry remains the healthiest sector in this county that is so popular among affluent retirees. One of the latest additions is Regent Surgical Health out of Westchester, Ill., which is partnering with local physicians to open an outpatient surgical center in Mount Dora that will specialize in orthopedic, spine, urology, podiatry and gastroenterology cases. The center is expected to create more than 35 jobs.

OSCEOLA COUNTY

Aiming for biotech: With its close proximity to the Lake Nona medical city in Orange County and its availability of property, Osceola is targeting companies that will fit in with a growing biotechnology and research cluster. One recent addition was FPA Clinical Research in downtown Kissimmee, which conducts clinical trials for major drug companies.

Good sports abound: Osceola County is vying to become the amateur sports capital of Florida, bringing in the headquarters for organizations such as the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, a half-million-member group that publishes Bassmaster magazine, and the United States Specialty Sports Association, which has 3.7 million members in amateur baseball, basketball, flag football, golf, karate, lacrosse, soccer, softball, taekwondo and volleyball leagues. Neighboring Walt Disney World is home to the Wide World of Sports complex, which has forged a partnership with ESPN to host and televise amateur sporting events.

SUMTER COUNTY

Power source: A natural gas line expansion that extended service into the county from neighboring Belleview is good news for businesses along U.S. Highway 301, not to mention residents who want to sell their properties for commercial use. A major beneficiary is Finland-based Outokumpu Stainless Pipe Inc., which uses natural gas to operate its plant in Wildwood. Outokumpu manufactures welded stainless steel pipes used in chemical and petrochemical processing, liquefied natural gas, offshore construction, pulp and paper, food and pharmaceutical processing and automotive and aerospace applications.

Children’s Miracle Network Classic PGA tournament
Disney’s Wide World of Sports® Complex is home to more than 180 sports and entertainment events throughout the year, including the Children’s Miracle Network Classic PGA tournament. [Photo: ©Walt Disney World]

Tags: Space Coast, Business Florida

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