Florida Trend | Florida's Business Authority

Tampa Bay: Finding a Home

WellDyneRx expanded to Florida’s Tampa Bay region because Lakeland offered a central location, a ready labor pool and proximity to a polytechnic university.
[Photo: Tom Hagerty]

Tampa Bay
Demographics for the Tampa Bay Region can be found at Business Florida's interactive map of Florida.
Regional Assets

• Clearwater Christian College
• Eckerd College
• Florida College
• Florida Southern College
• Hillsborough Community College
• New College of Florida
• Pasco-Hernando Community College
• Polk State College
• Ringling College of Art and Design
• Saint Leo University
• St. Petersburg College
• Southeastern University
• State College of Florida,
• University of South Florida
• University of Tampa
• Warner University
• Webber International University

• St. Petersburg-Clearwater
International Airport
• Sarasota Bradenton International
• Tampa International Airport

• Port Manatee
• Port of St. Petersburg
• Port of Tampa

Looking to expand its operations to the East Coast, WellDyneRx, a Colorado-based mail-order pharmacy services company, chose Florida, and in February 2009, moved into its newly built 66,000-square-foot facility in Lakeland. With plans to spend up to $20 million on its new Polk County location, WellDyneRx already has 50 employees on site — mostly pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and call center professionals — and could add as many as 650 more who will make an average annual salary of $45,000.

Damien Lamendola, president and CEO of WellDyneRx, says the decision to expand in the Tampa Bay region came down to the three Ps:

Place — Lamendola says the fact that Lakeland is situated between two international airports (Tampa and Orlando) makes it extremely convenient “not only for clients but also for employees.”

People — Before making their final decision, WellDyneRx executives talked to a half-dozen employers in Polk County and came away convinced that the region is rich in skilled workers. “We knew we would have a great pool of people to draw from,’’ Lamendola says.

Polytechnic — A new campus for University of South Florida Polytechnic, the state’s only polytechnic university, is under construction in Lakeland at the intersection of I-4 and Polk Parkway. Since 1988, USFP has occupied a joint-use campus with Polk Community College (now Polk State College). However, with the growth of a high-tech corridor across Florida’s mid-section and the need for skilled workers to fill the jobs available as a result, the decision was made to expand USFP into a full-blown research university. State lawmakers supported that decision in spring 2009 when they set aside $11.4 million for campus construction.

“The fact that USF was in the process of preparing and planning for the polytechnic university will give us more of the highly skilled individuals we need for staffing,” says Lamendola.


Amenity rich: Anchoring the Tampa Bay region is Hillsborough County, home to the city of Tampa, Tampa International Airport, the Port of Tampa and the main campus of the University of South Florida. Tampa has hosted the Super Bowl four times, including the 2009 game, and in 2008, its international airport served more than 18 million passengers. The Port of Tampa provides a gateway for products flowing into and out of west and central Florida businesses.

Expanding in place: Chromalloy, a supplier of components and component repairs for turbine engines used by commercial and military customers across the world, in April 2009 launched a $16.5-million expansion of its Tampa engine component production facility. The expansion, which includes installing new vacuum furnaces, is expected to be completed by the end of 2009. As new equipment comes on-line, Chromalloy anticipates hiring up to 200 additional employees.

Downtown Tampa
The Hillsborough River is a focal point for development in downtown Tampa.

Providing centralized services: Nortrax Inc., a John Deere construction and forestry equipment dealer, announced in April 2009 that it would open a 24,000-square-foot shared services center in eastern Hillsborough County. Employing some 60 people in accounting, finance, credit, human resources, sales and marketing and information technology, the new center will provide centralized services to all 40 Nortrax U.S. branches as well as offices in Canada.

Ready labor pool: In June 2009, Vangent Inc. opened a new customer service center in the south Hillsborough County community of Riverview. The Arlington, Va.-based information technology management and outsourcing company moved into a 99,000-square-foot center where it will handle calls to the 1-800-Medicare toll-free phone line for the federal government. Staffing needs are expected to number 600 permanent employees. Vangent chose Tampa Bay for two reasons: a pre-existing structure was available for immediate occupancy, and the region offered a pool of Hispanic workers with the language fluency needed to answer questions from Spanish-speaking Medicare beneficiaries.

Adding space: In June 2009, Tampa-based CoreRx Inc. began an expansion of its pharmaceutical development headquarters and is spending more than

$5 million on the renovations needed to grow its current facility from 10,000 to approximately 80,000 square feet. When completed, the new facility will have more than 15,000 square feet of laboratory space and is expected to create 55-plus new jobs over a three-year period.

Biotech cluster grows: In another nod to increasing its already thriving bioscience industry sector, Hillsborough County in May 2009 bought 57 acres near the main campus of the University of South Florida to be used as a research and development park.


SRI breaks new ground: SRI, the Silicon Valley-based research institute that in 2006 announced its intention to come to Pinellas County in order to be near the University of South Florida’s renowned College of Marine Science, broke ground on its new marine technology R&D facility in St. Petersburg in October 2008. The 37,000-square-foot facility will provide a home for some 100 researchers and staff engaged in cutting-edge R&D in marine science and technology, port security, energy and the environment. While the new building is under construction, SRI St. Petersburg will continue to operate from its temporary location on the USF campus at Bayboro Harbor.

Sue Englander
Sue Englander’s firm was named 2009 U.S. Small Business Subcontractor of the Year.
Opening soon: New business start-up Plasma Therm LLC selected the city of St. Petersburg as its home in 2009. The company, which plans to create 70 jobs in its first year, is a manufacturer of semi-conductor equipment.

Growing in size and staff: NDH Medical Inc., a contract medical device manufacturer and Pinellas County fixture since 1995, has doubled the size of its facility over the past year. Company President Geary Havran says he is expanding in Pinellas County because a “fairly significant medical industry cluster” has developed here and there is an advantage to being close to others in the same business. Plans call for adding up to 12 additional employees in the next two years as part of the expansion. NDH began using its new space in March 2009, but Havran predicts that he will need to consolidate his operations in a stand-alone building within two to three years.

Headquarters relocation: In fall 2008, Biopsy Sciences moved its headquarters from Tucson to Clearwater. The company, which manufactures biomedical devices, qualified for state financial incentives to help offset the costs of its relocation in exchange for creating 200 high-value jobs.

On the fast track: Clearwater-based EEI Manufacturing Services has been named 2009 U.S. Small Business Subcontractor of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration. The company, which was started in 1993 by Sue Englander, is a contract manufacturer that does circuit board design, circuit card assembly and other services for the federal government and defense contractors. The company has grown from a two-employee firm with $700,000 in gross sales to 26 employees and more than $7 million in revenues since its founding, and in June was awarded nearly $50,000 in additional worker training grants to continue employee training programs.


Upgrades Mean Jobs

» Colorado Boxed Beef Company in Auburndale just invested $9.25 million to facilitate a systems-wide upgrade that will result in the addition of 80 new employees. “There’s a tremendous amount of resources and tremendous amount of talent in central Florida,” says John Rattigan, chief operating officer for Colorado Boxed Beef. “We’re really looking at enhancing growth and improving our training and our skill sets.”

» Coca-Cola has spent $70 million to add new production lines to its plant in Auburndale. Opened in 2003, the Auburndale facility is Coca-Cola’s largest non-carbonated plant.

Centrally located: Polk County benefits from its location between two metropolitan areas, Tampa and Orlando, both of which boast thriving biotech clusters and research universities, not to mention some of Florida’s most famous tourist attractions. The addition of University of South Florida Polytechnic to the educational mix is a further reason more are choosing to grow in this area.

New arrival: GTECH Printing Corp., an arm of one of the world’s largest gaming companies, opened a $43-million instant game ticket printing facility in May 2009. The 100,000-square-foot facility in Lakeland is capable of printing 48,000 tickets a minute and has total production capabilities of 11 billion tickets per year. GTECH hired 221 people to work in the new facility.


Ideal location: Situated just north of Tampa Bay, Pasco County is luring new businesses to an area that is readily accessible to both Tampa and St. Petersburg:

  • Investment firm T. Rowe Price spent $13.5 million in July 2009 to purchase 75 acres in Pasco County. The financial services company is expected to build a regional campus on the site, a move that could eventually bring as many as 1,500 jobs to the area.
  • Stainless Fabricators Inc., a manufacturer of marine and architectural railings, broke ground in June 2009 on a new 30,000-square-foot facility in Odessa. The $2.3-million investment will lead to an additional 10 new jobs.
  • In early August 2009, Jantech Services Inc., a power protection equipment company, began work on a new $1.17-million facility in Odessa.
  • P & K Engineering Inc. is making plans for a $1-million, 6,000-square-foot facility in Land O’Lakes that will bring 25 new jobs into the county.


Attracting new business: In 2008, Hernando County adopted a set of incentives designed to attract companies to this area, which is situated about an hour north of Tampa International Airport. These incentives include a payment of up to $2,000 to $3,000 per job created at a specified salary.

Companies that have come to Hernando over the past year include:

  • Neubert Aero Corporation, which in July 2009 signed a lease for a new 10,000-square-foot facility in Brooksville with plans to open the new building by January 2010. The company specializes in airport safety products and will house both its manufacturing arm and its sales and marketing division at the facility where research and development also will be conducted.
  • Intrepid Machine Inc., which moved into a new 15,000-square-foot facility at the Hernando County Airport Corporate Park in November 2008. The company builds precision-machined aerospace components for helicopters and airplanes and has 20 employees.


More than a pretty face: Located along Florida’s Nature Coast about an hour north of Tampa, Citrus County has long been appreciated by ecotourists for its bountiful lakes, rivers and springs. In addition to preserving the area’s natural beauty, establishing business infrastructure is a top priority.

Business park: County officials have embarked on a plan to expand the Inverness Business Park adjacent to the Inverness Airport from its present 80 acres to as many as 500 acres. In July 2009, the county began construction on a new road to link the business park to U.S. 41, the major four-lane highway bisecting the county from north to south.

Asolo Theater
Dismantled and brought from Italy to the Ringling Estate in Sarasota, the restored 18th-century Asolo Theater today functions as a performing arts venue for theater, dance, film and lectures. [Photo: St. Petersburg]

Fresh produce: Citrus County is looking to assist area farmers with grants that can be used to expand the existing farmers market in Crystal River to sites in Inverness and Homosassa.


On the march: Dulond Tool & Engineering, which provides precision machine work and assembly for a variety of industries, moved into a new 13,000-square-foot facility in June 2009. Dulond recently partnered with a distributor to market its LoadMaestro carts, wheeled aluminum carts made specifically for transporting marching band equipment.

Growing exponentially: Kopco Graphics Inc., which specializes in flexographic printing of pressure sensitive labels, in May 2009 tripled the size of its Manatee County facility to 10,000 square feet to accommodate more equipment and expanded services. The company first came to Manatee County in 2003.

Trinity Manufacturing Corporation doubled the size of its Manatee County-based manufacturing operations in March 2009. A contract manufacturer of cable assemblies, wiring harnesses and electrical panel and box assemblies for original equipment manufacturers, Trinity employs 26 people.

Incentives facilitate move: Veethree Electronics and Marine LLC, an Illinois-based supplier of mechanical and electronic instrumentation, moved its global engineering headquarters to Manatee County in April 2009 with the help of economic development organizations in both Manatee and Sarasota counties. Manatee County government helped facilitate Veethree’s move into an existing 35,000-square-foot building with up to $60,000 in tax incentives based on the job growth and wages that will be generated as a result. The facility is expected to employ 50 people.

Sweet deal: Healthy Chocolate Florida opened its new 6,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Bradenton in May 2009. Led by a physicist, Healthy Chocolate uses a patent-pending process to create a high-quality, sugar-free chocolate that helps consumers control blood sugar levels and reduce hunger. The new facility has 12 full-time and two part-time employees.


Arts capital: John Ringling of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus fame made Sarasota his winter headquarters in 1927. Ringling’s passion for art led to the creation of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and helped cement the city of Sarasota as the “arts capital” of Florida.

Swimmers dive in: U.S. Masters Swimming, the national governing body for adult fitness and wellness through swimming, opened its first-ever national headquarters on Sarasota’s waterfront in July 2009. With nearly 50,000 registered adults as members, the organization had previously existed as a virtual network of staff and volunteers.

Moving in: GPS Industries Inc. in February 2009 chose Sarasota County for its new headquarters. The company, which designs and markets global positioning systems and Wi-Fi networks for golf courses and residential development, will bring as many as 45 additional jobs from its current headquarters in British Columbia.

Expansion planned: Medical Education Technologies Inc., the world’s leading supplier of human patient simulators, has announced plans to construct a 70,000-square-foot-facility east of Interstate 75.

Baseball returns: In July 2009, Sarasota County officials inked a long-term deal to become spring-training home of the Baltimore Orioles. The deal will spark a $31-million renovation of Ed Smith Stadium beginning in 2010.

Leaders in Job Growth

Two counties in Florida’s Tampa Bay region — Pasco and Hernando — were among the top 25 hottest spots in the nation for job growth in rankings released in summer 2009 by CNNMoney.com. With job growth at 55.9% between 2000 and 2008, Pasco was ranked 13th in the nation, while Hernando, with a job growth rate of 51.5%, took the No. 18 spot on the list.

Jeff Roth, founder and owner of Port Richey-based Chasco Machine and Manufacturing, believes businesses have a good future in Hernando County. In June, he moved his operations into a new 24,800-square-foot facility located at the Hernando County Airport Industrial Park. The company, which uses innovative robotic machines to perform around-the-clock production, has 15 employees now, but Roth expects his workforce and his sales to expand in the next several years.

Roth says Hernando County went out of its way to ensure that his move into the new $1.76-million facility was a smooth one, even fast-tracking the inspection process so that production could begin in a timely manner. “The county really stepped up to get us in here,’’ he says.

As a result, Roth is talking to other business owners and encouraging them to move to Hernando County, which is close to the beaches and a straight shot up the Suncoast Parkway from Tampa International Airport.

“Hernando offers great opportunity if you want to move to Florida,” he says. “It’s really a nice industrial area. They have plenty of workers available .... It’s a nice place to be.”