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Composite Tool-Making Business To Bring Up to 80 Jobs to Manatee

The former Well Craft facility in South Manatee will be converted into JRL Ventures, Inc.

Cape Coral-based JRL Enterprises Inc. plans to purchase the former Wellcraft manufacturing facility in South Manatee County to expand the composite tool-making business of JRL Ventures Inc.

The expansion is expected to create 80 new jobs over three years, according to Sharon Hillstrom, president and chief executive officer of the Manatee Economic Development Corp.

“The former Wellcraft facility has been sitting idle since 2008 when the marine manufacturing operation was moved,” Hillstrom said. “We are pleased to work with Bob Long, whose engineering and custom composite manufacturing business will bring this large property back to life with high-impact jobs.”

Long, who worked as president of Wellcraft in Manatee County from 1976 through the 1980s, is the owner and chief executive officer of JRL Enterprises and its affiliate, JRL Ventures, and an associated business, Marine Concepts. When Long and his wife, Karen, purchased Marine Concepts in 1994, the company had 15 employees. Today it has 135.

The companies provide highly sophisticated design engineering and manufacturing of composite-material plugs and molds used by other manufacturers to create parts and products. The companies’ work is used in a wide array of finished products, such as flight simulators, boats and even rocket parts such as nose cones for NASA.

“We are busting at the seams at our current locations in Cape Coral and Pine Island,” Long said. “We searched in Lee County for an appropriate facility and considered out-of-state opportunities, but we ultimately turned to Manatee County where I had worked for so long.

"The former Wellcraft facility has the elements we need, such as size, ventilation and some necessary equipment," he added. "It’s virtually ready to house our expanded operations right away, which is essential to our meeting production schedules for our customers.”

In addition to purchasing the property, Long says the company is purchasing an additional, large 5-Axis CNC robotic router that will operate at the new Manatee County location at a cost of almost $1 million installed. The substantial capital investment the company will make in buying the property and additional equipment, combined with the potential for creating 80 new jobs and preserving at least 120 existing Florida jobs, qualified JRL Ventures for state and county economic development incentives.

“Thankfully, Florida was able to accommodate JRL’s expansion needs, which has positioned the state for 80 new jobs,” said Enterprise Florida President & CEO Gray Swoope.  “The teamwork and commitment to supporting JRL that was demonstrated in this project reflects our state’s business-friendly culture.” 

The State of Florida has committed $192,000, while Manatee County Government approved up to $48,000 in performance-based incentives. To qualify for the incentives, the company must create 80 jobs over three years with an average annual wage of at least $34,556, which is equivalent to the county average. The project also qualified for the state’s “brownfield” program, which could provide up to $160,000 in sales tax rebates as a preexisting environmental condition is cured.

Potential job candidates should monitor the company’s website at www.marineconcepts.com and send resumes to info@marineconcepts.com, or apply in person at 1651 Whitfield Ave, Sarasota (Manatee County) 34243.

Manatee County Government, Enterprise Florida and the Manatee Economic Development Corporation were among the partners who helped to bring this expansion to fruition.

“The Manatee Board of County Commissioners is focused on maintaining a business-friendly environment that invites private-sector job creation,” said Ed Hunzeker, Manatee County administrator. “Appropriate use of economic development incentives for qualified projects helps Manatee County successfully compete as a location for growth industries that provide higher wage jobs.”

A list of Manatee County's economic development incentives is available at www.mymanatee.org/econ_dev.

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