Floridians working at a variety of mostly small manufacturers make everything from bottle caps and handmade knives to fishing reels and personal submarines. (Photos)
Vero Beach — Recreational submarines
Triton Submarines’ core market is the superyacht owner in search of the ultimate water toy. The submersibles, which can take a year or more to make, are maneuvered with joysticks and can venture from 1,000 to 5,500 feet beneath the surface. Depending on the model, a Triton sub can cost from $2.2 million to $4.7 million. The company’s lineup includes four- , six- and eight-passenger models and a “full ocean depth” model capable of descending to 35,800 feet, the deepest spot in the ocean, in approximately 75 minutes.
Green Circle Bio
Energy Cottondale — Wood pellets
In rural Jackson County, Green Circle Bio Energy operates the second-largest wood pellet plant in the world. The company, which markets its wood pellets to European power plants as an alternative energy source, has an annual production capacity of 660,000 tons. That’s enough to fill more than 50 football fields two stories high. CEO Morten Neraas says the 5-year-old company spends more than $30 million annually on wood in the region, which is trucked in, dried, ground into sawdust and compressed into pellets. Green Circle employs 86 at its Cottondale facility.
Orlando — Bottle caps
The next time you open a bottle of Zephyrhills bottled water, look at the plastic cap. It’s one of the 1.8 billion plastic caps manufactured each year in Orlando at the U.S. headquarters of Pelliconi, the world’s largest privately owned bottle cap manufacturer. The Italian company, which opened its 86,400-sq.-ft. plant just south of downtown Orlando in 2010, also makes metal bottle caps known as crown caps. The plant can produce up to 3 billion crown caps annually. Pelliconi operates two other plants in Italy and one in Egypt.
Jacksonville — Contact lenses
When Johnson & Johnson bought out a small Jacksonville-based contact lens manufacturer called Frontier Contact Lens in 1981, the company inherited a labor-intensive manufacturing process. “Every employee on the production line, whether they were lathing, polishing or inspecting, handled the lenses,” making it difficult to scale up the business. Johnson & Johnson overhauled the production lines, facilities and staff, implementing a “miniaturized and nearly fully automated” production process that has enabled the company to produce millions of lenses each day. It renamed the company Vistakon. The company’s Acuvue lenses, introduced in 1987, are the world’s most widely prescribed lens. Vistakon is planning a $218-million expansion over three years that will add 100 jobs. The company, which generated more than $3 billion in sales last year, operates another manufacturing facility in Limerick, Ireland.
L-3 Aviation Recorders
Sarasota — Black boxes
The crash-protected aviation recorder, better known as the “black box,” is made in Sarasota by L-3 Aviation Recorders. The company makes more than 70% of the world’s cockpit voice and flight data recorders and 80% of the world’s marine recorders in its 143,000-sq.-ft. facility. The boxes — which are actually orange so that they can be easily located after an accident — are able to withstand an impact of 3,400 Gs, temperatures of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes and submersion in saltwater for 30 days.
Melbourne — Phenom 100 and Phenom 300 jets
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.
Randall Made Knives
Orlando — Handmade knives
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.
Naples — Surgical equipment
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.
Fort Lauderdale — Diabetes products
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.
Delray Beach — Fly fishing reels
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.
Via Florida Trend