ROCKLEDGE – The empty building at 2900 Murrell Road sat vacant for years.
Formerly Spartech Corp., a supplier of such marine products as boat doors, latches and other devices, it closed as the recession took hold of many recreational industries, boating included.
A few months ago, a Canadian company, Roswell Global, decided the building was perfect for its U.S. operations. It was near Central Florida boat builders, there was a skilled work force in the area, and it was near both the Indian and Banana rivers and an inlet into the Atlantic Ocean.Diamondback Towers started in 2004 with about six employees, making wakeboard towers and accessories for top boat manufacturers.(Photo: For FLORIDA TODAY)
2900 Murrell Road has its sea legs again as Roswell goes about making products for all the country’s major boat builders.
“Rockledge is the ideal setting for business and growth in the marine segment,” said Robert Oswell, Roswell Global’s chief executive officer. “With a strong labor pool and skilled work force, the area is well-positioned to support our business.”
Roswell’s presence in Brevard is good news for many reasons, not the least of which is a productive building in the heart of Brevard County.
Maybe more important though, it’s indicative of a growing marine services industry that for the most part has sailed nearly unnoticed through the Brevard County economy while the aerospace and aviation industries have generated most of the headlines over the past several months.
• SeaDek Marine Products in Rockledge (http://www.seadek.com/) and Diamondback Towers LLC in Cocoa were singled out this summer as growth companies to watch by the University of Central Florida’s Florida Economic Gardening Institute.
SeaDeck makes traction pads for fiberglass boats and other marine and recreational products. Diamondback designs and constructs towers for boats.
• Scott Lewit, president and co-founder of West Melbourne-based Structural Composites, a builder of boats and other things, had the U.S. Navy pick up on one of his designs for a prototype of a lighter, more fuel-efficient utility boat. Lewit spoke at the American Boating Congress in May and was the recipient of the Alan J. Freedman Award which recognizes “individuals who, throughout the course of their careers, have made outstanding contributions to the marine accessories industry through leadership, creativity and personal motivation.”
Structural Composites, founded in 1987, and a sister company, Compsys, which started in 1994, are spin-offs of Florida Institute of Technology.
• Earlier this month, the Brevard County Commission approved, by a 3-1 vote, a $1.16 million, 10-year economic incentive package for a yacht-maker to start operations at the former Sea Ray Boats plant at 1220 Bertram Way on Merritt Island. The yet-to-be-named company said it would create 380 jobs by 2018 with an average wage of $45,000 and make a $16.2 million capital investment in new equipment at the plant, if it decides on the Merritt Island site.
• Paragon Plastics in Cocoa recently marked its 20th anniversary on the Space Coast. The company started out making thermoform products for the marine industry and in the last two decades has expanded into many other industries.
“The potential in this industry is good for Brevard to serve the recreational boating industry,” said Structural Composites’ Lewit said. “Even though there aren’t large boat factories in the Melbourne area, there are some close by. So we’re in a strategic location.”
The major manufacturers nearby that Lewit lists include Regal Marine Industries in Orlando; Maverick Boat Co. Inc. in Fort Pierce, as well as Pursuit Boats (a division of Holland, Mich.-based S2 Yachts Inc.) also in Fort Pierce; and Boston Whaler (a division of the Brunswick Corp.) in Edgewater.
“These are big factories,” Lewit said. “And that’s all within easy reach of Brevard. And the Southeast United States is a real hotbed for boat construction.”
“Brevard County’s manufacturing cluster extends beyond space and aerospace,” said Lynda Weatherman, president and chief executive officer at the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast. “The marine industry’s presence on the Space Coast is an example of how our competitive, pro-business environment compliments a wide-range of manufacturers.”
At one time, boat manufacturing was a lot hotter in Brevard. Less than a decade ago, Sea Ray boats operated a manufacturing and testing facility on Merritt Island. The economy, though, took its toll on the high-end Sea Ray products made here and the Brunswick Corp. (Sea Ray’s parent company) was forced to lay off workers and consolidate operations until its presence in Brevard all but evaporated.
However, many of the former Sea Ray workers remain in Brevard. The local talent pool includes assemblers, fabricators, gel coaters, laminators and technicians.
“You have a nice situation with transport and access on Interstate 95 and you have a good pool of trained workers with all these boat factories that are nearby,” said Lewit, who has picked up a few former Sea Ray workers for his companies.
Outlook for sales
The rising tide of the boating industry should ripple to Brevard.
Nationwide, the recreational boating industry grew in 2013, generating $36.7 billion in retail expenditures — new and pre-owned boats and engines, trailers, accessories and services — a 3.2 percent increase from 2012. Florida led the nation with sales of new powerboats, motors, trailers and accessories totaling $1.9 billion, up 16 percent, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
The association predicts a 5 percent to 7 percent national increase in retail sales of new boats this year.
“The environment is perfect for growth and we love the county,” Oswell at Roswell Global. “We are here to expand and headquarter our global marine operation and create jobs. Brevard is well positioned to support any business looking to expand the marine segment locally or internationally.”
Contact Price at 321-242-3659 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter @Fla2dayBiz.
Noteworthy in brevard county’s boating industry
• SeaDek Marine Products (traction pads for fiberglass boats) in Rockledge andDiamondback Towers LLC (towers for boats) in Cocoa were singled out as growth companies to watch by the University of Central Florida’s Florida Economic Gardening Institute.
• The U.S. Navy picked up on a design of Scott Lewit, president and co-founder of the West Melbourne-based Structural Composites (boat builder), for a prototype of a lighter, more fuel-efficient utility boat.
• The Brevard County Commission approved providing a $1.16 million, 10-year economic incentive package for a yacht-maker to start operations on Merritt Island. Known as “Project Transom,” the yet-to-be-named company said it would create 380 jobs by 2018 with an average wage of $45,000 and make a $16.2 million capital investment in new equipment at the plant if it decides on the site.
• Paragon Plastics (known for thermoform) in Cocoa celebrated its 20th anniversary on the Space Coast.