Made in Florida
Floridians working at a variety of mostly small manufacturers make everything from bottle caps and handmade knives to fishing reels and personal submarines.
Since 2011, Embraer has assembled its line of Phenom business jets at its $50-million 150,000-sq.-ft. facility in Melbourne. The Brazilian jet maker has been making its twin-engine jets — ranging from $4.4 million to $8.8 million — at the rate of four aircraft per month but can increase its assembly rate to eight aircraft per month if needed. More than 160 employees, many of them former NASA workers, work the assembly line and the two adjacent paint workshops, where finishing touches are made to the aircraft. Embraer, which employs a total of 290 workers locally, recently began building a 67,000-sq.-ft. engineering and technology center at the site that will generate 200 more jobs over the next five years. The research lab will focus primarily on the development of new equipment and interior products.
In 1937, Walter Doane “Bo” Randall began making knives as a hobby. A short time later, he began selling them out of his father-in-law’s clothing store in Orlando. Word of Randall’s knives spread, and his business expanded from friends and outdoorsmen to sales to large sporting good stores. Demand skyrocketed a few years later during World War II, as soldiers who’d heard about Randall’s Model 1 “All Purpose Fighting Knife” mailed their orders to the “Knife Man, Orlando, Florida.” Seventy-five years later, Randall’s son and grandson carry on his legacy, producing Randall Made Knives out of a small shop on South Orange Blossom Trail. The company has 28 models, all still handmade, ranging from $225 to $800. Other models are designed to be sold through dealers. Grandson Jason Randall says the company employs 20 craftsmen who produce 140 to 160 knives each week, but the 8,000 or so handmade knives they produce annually aren’t enough to keep up with demand. Current orders won’t ship out until 2017 — although impatient customers who don’t mind paying more can get one sooner by going to a dealer. Despite the four-year backlog, Randall says the company has no plans to scale up production, primarily because it can’t find enough workers
with the high-level skills needed. “Trade knife makers aren’t falling out of the sky,” he says.
Arthrex has developed more than 7,500 products for orthopedic surgical procedures. It releases, on average, more than 500 new products every year, ranging from total joint replacement devices to a variety of surgical instruments to orthobiologics such as bone grafting materials, cell therapies and other products that contain a biological or biochemical component. The 30-year-old company manufactures 70% of its products in southwest Florida and opened a 190,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing facility near Ave Maria earlier this year. Arthrex employs more than 1,600 in southwest Florida — including more than 350 new hires this year — and exports to more than 100 countries.
This year, Nipro Diagnostics will make 1 billion blood glucose test strips at its Fort Lauderdale facility. Nipro’s “TRUEtest” test strips, which require only 0.5 microliters of blood, are sold under Nipro Diagnostics’ label and are co-branded with major pharmacy retailers and distributors. The company, founded in 1985, estimates it has more than 12% market share. Competitors include Johnson & Johnson, Abbott, Bayer and Roche. While about 26 million Americans and about 350 million people worldwide have diabetes, those numbers are increasing rapidly because of an aging population and a global obesity crisis. The company’s FDA-approved blood glucose meters, which are made in Nipro’s wholly owned subsidiary in Taiwan, are also packaged at the Fort Lauderdale facility.
Tibor “Ted” Jurascik first met fly fishing legend Billy Pate during a 1972 fishing trip to Islamorada. Pate had just lost a big Tarpon because his reel wasn’t working right and he wondered if Jurascik, a New York tool-and-die maker, could make him a better reel. Jurascik, who had never made a reel before, got to work and designed an anti-reverse tarpon reel, which he later named the Billy Pate. Pate liked it so well he asked Jurascik if he could make more so that he could sell them in his Islamorada tackle shop. That led to the birth of Tibor Reel. In 1979, Jurascik moved his manufacturing operations to Florida. Today, the Delray Beach company, which employs 30, makes about 4,000 reels a year that sell for $365 to $865. Tibor’s fly reels hold nearly 800 world records — more than any other fly-fishing reel. Every part of every reel, with the exception of the ball bearings, is machined and hand-assembled at the family-owned company factory.