by Mike Vogel
Updated 5 yearss ago
The Treasure Coast wants to be known as the Research Coast, but for now warehouse and distribution operations are doing the heavy lifting in job creation. In late 2004, Wal-Mart hired 920 of a projected 1,200 for its huge distribution center in St. Lucie County. CVS plans a 350-job warehouse and distribution center at the new Indian River Park of Commerce near Vero Beach to serve its Florida drugstores. Distribution is a relatively new sector on the Treasure Coast. Wal-Mart aside, the sector employs only 365 in the region.
What Wal-Mart and CVS have discovered is that the Treasure Coast makes a logical logistic base. "We're three hours or less from Tampa, Miami, Orlando -- virtually every major city but Jacksonville," says Vero commercial real estate broker Linda Schlitt-Gonzalez. Distribution centers fit the clean industry bill for area economic developers, and they recruit them. One problem in some markets: Space. Distribution-suitable buildings are filled with businesses displaced by hurricanes and by roofers and repair contractors.
NEW COMPANIESRhode Island-based CVS plans to spend $60 million to build its new warehouse and distribution center, employing 350 in 2006.
Building materials supplier Cox Lumber Co. of St. Petersburg expects to hire 100 within 24 months as it opens a truss and prehung door plant and warehouse in St. Lucie County.
One-year-old XStream Systems, a maker of electronic X-ray-based detection devices for domestic security, hopes to hire 56 this year near Vero Beach as it builds and designs gear for detecting explosives, toxins and narcotics, says Roger T. Sobkowiak, chief operating officer.
Denver-based PSI, a third-party administrator of government programs, moved one of its operations from Illinois to Port St. Lucie in 2004 and now employs about 500 handling state children's health insurance programs for Georgia and Florida.
Mar-Test, a Cincinnati-based materials testing lab, hopes to open a Stuart lab by June. Initial employment will be only a handful of engineers with growth dependent on business development, says CEO Steve Etter.
EXPANSIONSNew Piper Aircraft, Indian River County's largest private employer, was reduced briefly after the summer hurricanes to a skeleton staff of 75 to 100 but as of February was back to 750 and looks to recall more workers as sales and production ramp up. CEO Chuck Suma and county leaders want the state to create an enterprise zone around the plant, the local airport and associated areas to provide tax breaks and stimulate hiring.
Hurricanes Jeanne and Frances and 18 hours of wind-driven rain all but destroyed the Palm Court Resort in Vero Beach, purchased in July by the music industry's Estefan family. One five-ton A/C unit was never recovered. The property has been closed since the storms and will reopen in 2006 as the Cabana Beach Resort.
Four-year-old UCT Coatings in Stuart has a surface finishing innovation that allows weapons to operate without wet lubricant. Sixty percent of UCT's business is with the military, which is intrigued by greaseless guns, but the technology has promise in the forestry, automotive and aerospace industries. UCT employs 42 (32 in Stuart), and President and COO Tom Dyer says employment looks to at least double this year.
Giliberti, a Stuart maker of electric vehicles used as tow tractors and belt loaders for aircraft, clay tennis court resurfacers and mini-ambulances for special events and theme parks, has increased employment to 14 from three since moving from Palm Beach County in 2003. A prospective contract with the military for combat tactical tow tractors could rocket employment to 150 to 250, but co-owner John Giliberti says incentive help is needed to grow.
TurboCombustor Technology added 40 workers in 2004 to grow to 306 and anticipates adding another 30 in the first half of this year, says Louis Surette, president of the privately held manufacturer of complex sheet metal fabrications for the turbine engine and industrial markets.
Core Communities continues work on a corporate park it hopes will house 1 million square feet of office space and another 1 million square feet of flex-tech space.
The Ginn Co.'s Tesoro and Tesoro Preserve residential developments, totaling 1,730 acres in St. Lucie County, will spark employment for thousands.
VERO BEACH & Indian River County
Area businesses will get a facelift -- modernized amenities and styles and structures to current code -- courtesy of insurance payouts from Frances and Jeanne. "Our business community was hit pretty hard," says Penny Chandler of the Indian River Chamber of Commerce...
All told, 28,000 Treasure Coast people filed for unemployment post-storms; 34,000 families filed for disaster relief food stamps...
The Indian River Park of Commerce, site of the coming CVS distribution facility, hopes to have more of its 145 acres developed for sale by December, says Paul Schwartz of Lambert Commercial Real Estate, which represents developer Adrian Real Estate.
Notable Names: Democratic contributor Ronald Ansin and his TV-station-owning brother Edmund Ansin, whose Ro-Ed Corp. owns 3,500 acres in Fellsmere, have begun plans to develop the site for homes and commercial buildings. No earth is expected to be turned until 2006...
Amir K. Shadab, owner of foam injection company MDI Products and law enforcement and martial arts protective gear maker Macho Products, both in Sebastian, forecasts hiring another 30 to 40 employees this year to add to his companies' 160. MDI, which makes armrests for child car seats among other applications, is growing faster. "The potential is huge," Shadab says.
PORT ST. LUCIE & St. Lucie County
The county and the University of Florida are collaborating to create an authority to run a proposed 1,650-acre research and education park along Florida's Turnpike that would be anchored by existing UF and USDA research operations, says Larry Daum, the county's manager of tourism and economic development...
Don Root, executive director of the Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County, and his Treasure Coast counterparts are pushing "Florida's Research Coast" as a new appellation for the region as it tries to work cooperatively rather than individually on recruiting and retaining business...
The county needs more hotel rooms as owners of a few hurricane-devastated properties -- the Hutchinson Inn and Radisson Beach Resort on North Hutchsinson Island -- forgo rebuilding...
Leisure and hospitality employment in the Treasure Coast fell 7.1% in December from a year earlier...
Port St. Lucie continues to wrestle with where to build a third corridor through the booming city -- 2000 population: 88,769; 2005 population estimate: 125,000...
Port St. Lucie residential lots that sold for $3,000 six years ago now command $50,000.
Notable Names: Louis Presutti, founder of Cooperstown Dreams Park, a New York baseball camp for youths, and the Treasure Coast Sports Commission are working on opening a similar camp at PGA Village, potentially bringing 60,000 to 100,000 room nights to area hotels...
H. Wayne Huizenga and Celebration-based The Ginn Co. are funding a new Florida's Turnpike interchange at Becker Road to serve commercial development slated for some of Huizenga's 1,000 acres and residential development at The Ginn Co.'s Tesoro. Huizenga also is redeveloping a marina property in north Martin County and owns 1,700 acres in north St. Lucie County and other Treasure Coast land holdings, including his private 18-hole golf course.
STUART & Martin County
A majority of the county's commissioners, for the first time in recent memory, seem more amenable to economic development and high-wage job creation, says Ted Astolfi, executive director of the county's Business Development Board. Just don't expect height restrictions to ease or the urban service boundary to be moved...
With Martin home to two hurricane eye landfalls last summer, businesses and residents will watch for post-hurricane insurance price increases while reconstruction drags on. "The recovery period is taking a lot longer than we thought it would," says local chamber President Joe Catrambone...
The 20-year fight over a second bridge from Stuart to Palm City goes on...
Businesses struggle with limited healthcare insurance options.
Notable Names: Former County Commissioner Mary Dawson and the Friends of Martin County group she founded are working toward a consensus on what the county should look like in the future...
Aimee Craig-Carlson, Centex Homes project manager for Indiantown, expects to begin sales this year of the approximately 1,000 homes, starting in the high $100,000s, the builder wants to put on two sites in Indiantown in west Martin County. Centex envisions building 4,500 homes in the once sleepy hamlet...
Dennis S. Hudson III, CEO of Seacoast Banking Corp. of Florida, holding company for $1.7 billion in assets First National Bank and Trust Co. of the Treasure Coast, fresh from expansions into Brevard and Palm Beach counties, plans to close in the second quarter on Seacoast's acquisition of three-office, $288 million in assets Century National Bank in Orlando. The bank looks to add two more offices in Palm Beach by mid-2006 and is scouting for two branch sites in Brevard.
Notable Name: A new 62-room Holiday Inn Express on U.S. 441 in Okeechobee is tentatively scheduled to open later this month.
lessPOPULATION TOTALSCounty???2005Average Annual Growth
????2001-2005??????TrendIndian River125,4832.11%Martin144,6912.82%Okeechobee38,2221.26%St. Lucie216,8272.25%FLORIDA17,612,5841.84%
RateLeading Job SectorsIndian River62,7826.8%Services 36%
Government 9%Martin83,8814.8%Services 41%
Finance, Insurance, Real Estate 9%Okeechobee12,6915.7%Services 24%
Farming 18%St. Lucie78,8897.0%Services 30%
Government 15%FLORIDA9,795,0834.1%Services 39%
POPULATION BY AGE
Years of AgeCounty0-1415-1920-3940-6465+TotalIndian River15.3%5.7%19.2%31.5%28.3%125,483Martin14.9%5.6%17.8%33.7%28.0%144,691Okeechobee20.3%7.5%25.7%29.9%16.6%38,222St. Lucie18.1%6.5%21.8%31.7%21.9%216,827FLORIDA18.7%6.6%25.1%32.5%17.1%17,612,584
PER CAPITA INCOME
Source of IncomeCountyPer Capita
Income 2005LaborPropertyTransferIndian River$42,00037.8%49.1%13.1%Martin$47,49338.9%50.3%10.8%Okeechobee$19,07154.3%19.3%26.4%St. Lucie$25,53951.0%27.4%21.6%FLORIDA$32,66262.5%25.8%11.7%
Sources: Woods & Poole Economics Inc. Washington, D.C. Copyright 2004. Woods & Poole does not guarantee the accuracy of this data. The use of this data and the conclusions drawn from it are solely the responsibility of Florida Trend. Population data include military stationed in Florida, college residents and inmates. Jobs data measure full- and part-time jobs and proprietors and include farmworkers. Property income includes rent, dividend and interest payments. Transfer income includes Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance. Unemployment data are from the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation.