Sarasota County, FL is home to three of the seven largest manufacturers in the Tampa Bay region, according to an annual listing by the Tampa Bay Business Journal. The hidden gem of manufacturing is a growing and important element in diversifying the local economy.
“Manufacturing is extremely important. It’s a value-add,” said Wolfgang Dangel, President and CEO of Sarasota-based Helios Technologies, parent company of Sun Hydraulics. “A prosperous economy needs a healthy blend between the service sector and manufacturing. For the long-term prosperity of a community, manufacturing is a key.”
“We are now at our highest employment levels in Sarasota in our 49-year history,” Dangel said. “We’ve grown globally and particularly in Sarasota.” Helios employs 800 people in three facilities in Sarasota and Manatee counties — two production factories and one engineering center. It also has a corporate office facility at a fourth location.
As part of this growth the company recently acquired Enovation Controls in Oklahoma and Texas and Faster Group in Italy, bringing its global employment to 2,000.
At the same time, Helios is investing heavily in the region. In the past 15 months, the company has put $12 million in state-of-the-art machinery and equipment at its manufacturing plants. This year, the company is investing $10 million in a new engineering R&D center for product innovation.
PGT Innovations, the largest private employer headquartered in Sarasota County and third largest manufacturer in the Tampa Bay region, is growing steadily through organic growth and acquisitions and reinvesting in Sarasota County.
The North Venice-based storm-resistant window and door manufacturer built a $5 million connector building last year that connected its two glass plants with more manufacturing space and protection from the elements, said Jeff Jackson, President and CEO.
PGT employs 3,100 workers, 2,000 in Venice, and is continually adding employees and capacity, such as adding another thermal plastic system line for insulated glass. “We can’t have all service or real estate or healthcare,” Jackson said. “Manufacturing provides good career options for many.”
The region has a strong history of collaborating to support the needs of manufacturing. CareerEdge, Career Source Suncoast, higher education, technical schools, the Sarasota Area Manufacturers Association, business organizations and related businesses are regularly developing necessary programs.
In April 2018, an apprenticeship program got off the ground when the tool and die journeyman’s designation was registered with the Florida Department of Education and a few apprenticeships began. Since then, CareerSource has obtained a $100,000 grant from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity to expand the apprenticeship programs. The organization is hoping to create 30 apprenticeship positions with three more local companies.
Collaborations like this will help our manufacturers continue to succeed as they help us build a more diverse, sustainable economy. To learn more about Sarasota County visit www.edcsarasotacounty.com.
Sponsored by: Enterprise Florida
This article was prepared by Sarasota County Economic Development Corporation, which is solely responsible for its content.