Manufacturing Jobs Surge in South Florida
June 9, 2014
Marcia Heroux Pounds, Sun Sentinel
Electronics manufacturing (file photo)
June 08--More people are finding manufacturing jobs in South Florida, sometimes because of a company's rising global sales.
Bolton Medical, a stent-maker in Sunrise, received FDA approval in 2012 of its thoracic stent used for minimally invasive treatment of aneurysms and ulcers.
The FDA approval "opened up a lot more countries that were interested in purchasing the product," said Donna Bean, human resources manager. That and other successes have led to Bolton hiring 64 new employees in the past 1 1/2 years at its manufacturing operation in Sunrise.
Bolton Medical and other Florida manufacturers reported a 1 percent increase in jobs over the year in March, according to the 2014 Florida Manufacturers Register, an industrial directory published by Manufacturers' News. In the tri-county area of South Florida, which has been recovering at a more rapid pace the rest of the state, the increase is 1.6 percent.
The rise also is seen in employment numbers from the state. Florida reported an increase of 7,600 manufacturing jobs, up 2.4 percent, from April 2013.
Some 25,600 people are employed in manufacturing in Broward County, about 100 more than in April a year ago.
Palm Beach County has lost 100 manufacturing jobs since April 2013, but the county still has a significant manufacturing presence: more than 15,000 people employed in the sector.
South Florida has manufacturing operations in aircraft and aerospace parts, marine, medical devices, electronics, metals and industrial supplies, diabetic testing equipment, pharmaceuticals and supplements, kitchen cabinets, lighting and many other products.
"Our recovery here was led by the manufacturing side," said David Coddington, vice president of business development for The Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, Broward County's economic development agency.
He points to companies such as Actavis, a global pharmaceutical company that expanded its manufacturing in Davie, announcing plans in March to create 220 jobs.
Actavis human resources representative Laura Cannizzaro was seeking new workers at a job fair last week at BB&T Center in Sunrise. The company is hiring for about 70 jobs in Broward County, including manufacturing, warehouse and sales, she said.
In Palm Beach County, a Wellington-based fashion manufacturer has added 60 jobs, according to Manufacturers' News. And West Palm Beach yacht repairer Rybovich has added 200 employees over five years by focusing on international sales, said Carlos Vidueira, vice president for Rybovich.
"The majority of non-U.S. growth is coming from Europe. We have a better product to offer," he said. The result has been double-digit growth in revenue for the last nine years, even during the recession.
Manufacturing and its jobs are going through rapid changes as a result of technology, said Gray Swoope, Florida Secretary of Commerce and president of Enterprise Florida.
"The same technology that has made our lives easier is the same technology that has merged with the ability to make products. It makes manufacturing a very different dynamic than it was 10 or 20 years ago," Swoope said.
Those manufacturers are attractive to the state because they usually come with a hefty capital investment and lots of jobs.
The Alliance's Coddington said he thinks Broward is in a good position to compete with new manufacturers, but that sometimes other states make offers, such as 20 acres of land for free, that the county can't match.
When trying to sway Venezuelan company executives considering various states for its U.S. manufacturing, Coddington served empanadas at the meeting.
"I got these from the cafe down the street. I bet you're not going to have too many of those in Arkansas," he told them.
Strengths such as South Florida's cultural diversity can ultimately win out, he said. Lower U.S. energy costs and local universities willing to train workers are other assets, Coddington said.
Swoope said Florida can be competitive for manufacturing if it just gets in front of decision-makers. "We just have to prove ourselves," he said.
That's one reason the state offers a sales tax exemption to manufacturers on machinery and equipment purchases. And why the 2014-2015 budget recently signed by Gov. Rick Scott includes $12.1 million in for skills training for companies that are creating high-wage jobs in the state.
"We thought that would be an opportunity for manufacturing," he said.
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Original headline: Manufacturing jobs on the rise
Source: (c)2014 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)