Florida's manufacturing sector can create outsized impact on the economy as goods flow from facilities to market. Here's a look at some hotspots around the state and the companies producing jobs.
As Florida focuses on growing its economy, experts say one of the most productive places to expand is in manufacturing. The sector pays about 117% of average annual wages in Florida, creates both blue and white-collar jobs and has one of the highest multiplier effects for return on investment. Every $1 in manufactured goods produces $3.60 across all other sectors.
Four decades ago, more than a half-million Floridians earned their living in manufacturing (amid a statewide population of about 11 million, about half of today’s) before hitting a steep decline that bottomed out after the Great Recession. Throughout that era, Florida’s manufacturing challenges were similar to the nation’s: Production moved overseas for lower labor costs and the shift in employment toward the service economy changed the nature of the workforce. In recent years, statewide economic development efforts have refocused on manufacturing with an emphasis on rebuilding the talent pipeline and preparing future workers with skills required in advanced manufacturing and to meet the needs of Florida’s thriving techology and aerospace sectors. In the post-pandemic economy, the reshoring of manufacturing and federal and state investments also are helping turn the tide.
As of June, Florida manufacturing jobs numbered about 420,000, according to the most recent count available from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Miami-Dade County alone makes up 10.4% of the state’s total manufacturing employment and on the Space Coast it’s 13%. In a 2022 study of the state’s manufacturing sector, Florida Tax- Watch noted each manufacturing worker generated $144,481 in output, more than double the productivity of a worker 20 years before them.
“There’s a lot of things coming together. It reflects a diversifying economy,” says Kevin Carr, CEO of FloridaMakes, the public-private partnership that seeks to grow small and medium-sized manufacturing companies, which account for the vast majority of the nearly 25,000 Florida companies in the sector. “If we keep up this momentum, we might be known as one of those places where you make things in the United States.”
To get a sense of what’s next, Florida Trend spoke with economic development leaders to see how the growth of manufacturing is playing out across Florida’s regions and to get a snapshot of some of the companies that are part of the wave of change.
REGIONAL UPDATE: Broward County
In the last five years, manufacturing jobs in Broward grew at triple the national pace with the county manufacturing employment increasing 10.2% compared to 3.1% nationally, reports the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance using data from economic development database Lightcast. Chemical manufacturing — think pharma in Broward — was particularly strong, up 66% (1,381 jobs) from 2017 to 2022. Medical equipment and supplies went up 15% (344 jobs). Both pharma and medical device manufacturing are industries the Alliance targets. A medical device manufacturing example: Robotic surgery maker Stryker in Weston added 550 jobs and made a $25-million capital investment, according to the Alliance. Furniture-making employment also was up strongly. “Innovative manufacturing is a ‘best-kept secret’ of Greater Fort Lauderdale’s economy — from additive manufacturing of rocket parts to medical device manufacturing for robotic surgical equipment, to pharmaceutical manufacturing, the sector is thriving and attracting top talent to South Florida,” says Bob Swindell, president and CEO of the Alliance, the official public-private partnership for economic development in Broward County. Food manufacturing was the biggest loser with a decrease of 17% or 393 jobs.
BUSINESS TO WATCH
Founded in 2015 in Hollywood, additive designer and manufacturer Sintavia designs and 3D prints systems and components for the aerospace and defense industries that power and cool “a new generation of flight and launch vehicles.” It’s created more than 100 high-wage jobs and spent more than $100 million building the company. Lockheed Martin buys Sintavia’s components for the F-35 and F-22. In June, Lockheed made an investment in the company. Terms weren’t disclosed but CEO and Sintavia founder Brian Neff says the investment “not only cements the relationship between Lockheed Martin and Sintavia, but also demonstrates the fact that Sintavia’s thermodynamic components — optimized through additive technology — are sought after by the largest and most substantial prime integrators within the aerospace and defense industry. … Lockheed Martin represents the very best of these, and we are honored to have their backing as we continue to grow and expand our product line.”
REGIONAL UPDATE: St. Lucie County
Rapid growth in boat building fueled a 1,400-job, 20% increase in manufacturing employment in the St. Lucie metro in the last five years, says the St. Lucie Economic Development Council. Maverick Boats, owned by Malibu Boats out of Tennessee, grew employment from 273 in 2017 to 580 at year-end 2022, the EDC reports. Pursuit Boats, also owned by Malibu, went from 324 to 684 in the same span. Homestead-based Contender Boats took over a citrus packing plant that employed 200 before closing due to canker and greening and turned it into a boat factory employing 84 with plans to grow to 200. Twin Vee, another boat maker, also announced an expansion. Outside the marine industry, high-tech wire and connector company Accel International finished its new facility earlier this year and projects employing 125. Aviation employers also are adding jobs, though more so in Martin County than St. Lucie.
BUSINESS TO WATCH
A-1 Industries, Fort Pierce
Roof truss manufacturer A-1 Industries went from $3 million in annual revenue coming out of the Great Recession to a projected $92 million this year. It just added 48,000 square feet of factory, office and maintenance space in Fort Pierce to take it to four acres under one roof. In recent years, it tripled employment in Fort Pierce and a sibling factory in Bainbridge, Ga., to 408.
“Our growth has been pretty phenomenal,” says chairman and CEO John Herring, who founded the company in 1977. “We just see our customers growing and see ourselves growing. We have not seen a whole lot of pullback from the tract builders. When I talk to them, they’re optimistic.”
About 45% of business is from multifamily builders, 40% from single-family tract builders and the remainder from custom-home and commercial clients — including horse barns in equestrian centers Wellington and Ocala and hangars for fly-in communities. A-1 supplies much of the state and Caribbean from Fort Pierce. Its Georgia factory supplies Northwest Florida and parts of north Florida. A-1 emphasizes company culture, technology and innovation, Herring says. The trend in residential building is on eliminating waste and lowering costs. “You’ll hear a lot about that in the future,” he says.
REGIONAL UPDATE: Palm Beach County
Palm Beach County is known for its oceanfront estates and influx of Northeastern financial titans but little known is that the county is a hub of manufacturing in aviation and aerospace, pharma, medical devices and other sectors that collectively number nearly 1,500 companies employing nearly 22,000. “We continue to see growth and innovative technologies made in this area,” says Kelly Smallridge, president and CEO of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County.
The board reports an increase in medical device makers and life science manufacturing such as ProCaps, a pharmaceutical manufacturer that took 86,000 square feet in Riviera Beach. Aviation and aerospace continue to grow. Witness drone maker Percepto, which has an 11,000- sq.-ft. facility in Rivera Beach.
BUSINESS TO WATCH
Precision Esthetics Dental Laboratory, West Palm Beach
German entrepreneur and master dental technician Achim Michael Renner founded dental lab Precision Esthetics some 34 years ago in Palm Beach County. This year, he announced it would add 25 employees to bring its headcount to 75 at its headquarters in West Palm Beach. The expansion is part of an increase in medical device manufacturing the county has seen of late, according to the county Business Development Board. In general, life science and manufacturing industries are thriving, the board says. Precision opened its new 8,000-sq.-ft. lab a year ago and is renovating 2,000 square feet of it for a teaching and education center. Entry-level job candidates are trained in-house. Precision says its lab is the only one in South Florida led by a team of master dental technicians trained in Germany, Switzerland and the United States. Its number of dental implant cases now totals more than 250,000.
MANUFACTURING SNAPSHOT: SOUTHEAST (2022)
- 29,445: Employment
- 2,160: Establishments
- $67,524: Average Annual Pay
Port St. Lucie MSA
- 8,012: Employment
- 491: Establishments
- $60,487: Average Annual Pay
Palm Beach County
- 20,555: Employment
- 1,512: Establishments
- $84,871: Average Annual Pay
Miami-Fort Lauderdale- West Palm Beach MSA
- 92,244: Employment
- 6,860: Establishments
- $69,138: Average Annual Pay
REGIONAL UPDATE: Miami-Dade
With 42,000 manufacturing jobs, Miami- Dade County represents more than 10% of all manufacturing employment in Florida. But what Miami may make better than anything else is image, and that is helping drive manufacturing growth, says James Kohnstamm, executive vice president at the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade’s public-private economic development group.
While the University of Miami’s Life Converge Miami attracts pharmaceutical and medical business, food manufacturers see value in the ability to brand their products with the city’s name.
Filthy Food, for example, manufactures drink garnishes from a Miami Gardens factory, brining imported Greek olives without chemicals and blending mixes for cherries, onions and more.
Norway-based Atlantic Sapphire, meanwhile, is building the world’s largest indoor salmon farm in Homestead, manufacturing the seafood “from spawn to filet,” Kohnstamm says.
Co-founder Johan Andreassen sees Atlantic Sapphire as a food technology and a climate technology company because its process not only reduces salmon harvesting’s carbon footprint, but also captures some carbon.
Atlantic Sapphire farms use 99% recycled water to make salmon that never are exposed to ocean pollutants or parasites. And it can reach grocery stores and restaurants up and down the eastern seaboard faster. The company hopes to produce about 1 billion servings of salmon annually.
BUSINESS TO WATCH
It took a lot of work to go from supplying and repairing power electronics components in 2002 to standing on the White House lawn last spring as the president praised their company. But Luis Contreras and Karina Doracio, the husband and wife who founded Miami-based AmePower, were honored as Florida Small Business Leaders of the Year because of their ability to anticipate changes in the manufacturing landscape.
The company makes high-power energy converters and inverters, retrofitting engines and producing conversion systems for solar and wind energy and EV chargers. These are boom times for clean energy technology, and AmePower plans to double its staff of more than 50 employees who work in a new 44,000-sq.-ft. facility.
Doracio came to the United States from Argentina, and Contreras came from Venezuela. Being at the Rose Garden reminded the couple of the people who helped build the company with them, along with “the power of perseverance and the importance of dreaming big.”
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY (2022)
- 42,244: Employment
- 3,189: Establishments
- $62,607: Average Annual Pay
REGIONAL UPDATE: Tampa Bay
During the last five years, the Tampa metro area has seen manufacturing jobs increase by about 10% — a significantly higher percentage of growth than the 3% national norm, according to a 2022 report by Chmura, a Virginia-based labor market consulting and analytics firm.
The firm’s research also indicates that the Tampa area added more than 200 manufacturing businesses between 2017 and 2021, says Craig Richard, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council.
Examples of global manufacturing firms headquartered in the Tampa Bay area include Signode, Bertram Yachts, Mosaic, Advanced Airfoil Components and Suzuki Marine. Also, earlier this year, Australia-based AutoSlide, an automatic door maker, announced it was moving its North American headquarters from California to Tampa.
Richard expects more growth in the manufacturing sector in the coming years through relocations and expansions.
“Our pro-business climate, growing population, ideal location along the I-4 corridor, and having Florida’s largest deep-water seaport and a world-class international airport right in our backyard are major benefits that Tampa offers manufacturing firms looking to expand or relocate,” he says.
BUSINESS TO WATCH
PGT Innovations, North Venice
Forty-year-old building product manufacturer PGT Innovations in Sarasota County operates more than 2.2 million square feet of manufacturing space over eight locations, mostly in Florida but also in Phoenix and Salt Lake City. With about 5,500 employees and record sales of $1.49 billion in 2022, the company is considered one of Florida’s great manufacturing success stories. But even at the top of its game, PGT Innovations has found it difficult to find employees.
With talent scarce, the company put its efforts into creating a work environment that would attract and retain good employees, “which includes investing in team members in a way that encourages them to invest in themselves by offering training programs designed to inspire careers rather than jobs,” the company tells FLORIDA TREND.
In 2022, PGT Innovations launched Coopey World, an on-site training center to help new team members acclimate to manufacturing roles, improve retention rates and create partnerships with local organizations. Looking to counter what it calls a “stigma” around manufacturing jobs that sent high school students the message that a four-year college degree was the only marker of success, the company created Pathway to PGTI. It allows high school students to train alongside a PGT Innovations mentor during their school day and explore potential career paths in manufacturing.
Recognizing that some employees will desire a college degree or advanced certifications in their field, PGT also has invested more than $1.2 million in tuition-reimbursement and scholarship programs for workers and their dependents.
REGIONAL UPDATE: Pasco County
Between 2018 and 2022, manufacturing jobs in Pasco County rose 21.6%, an increase of 4,626 jobs. According to the Pasco Economic Development Council, advanced manufacturing jobs account for about 33% of the county’s new jobs over the last five years.
Tampa-St. Petersburg- Clearwater MSA
- 71,583: Employment
- 3,349: Establishments
- $72,080: Average Annual Pay
Lakeland-Winter Haven MSA
- 19,179: Employment
- 615: Establishments
- $70,664: Average Annual Pay
North Port-Sarasota- Bradenton MSA
- 18,062: Employment
- 1,049: Establishments
- $64,682: Average Annual Pay
Cape Coral-Fort Myers MSA
- 7,808: Employment
- 681: Establishments
- $63,480: Average Annual Pay
Naples-Immokalee- Marco Island MSA
- 5,179: Employment
- 383: Establishments
- $68,314: Average Annual Pay
Mickey Mouse and tourism may be front of mind when people think of Central Florida, but the region also boasts a growing manufacturing sector that accounts for about 4% of the Orlando Metropolitan Statistical Area’s employment. The region has been adding manufacturing jobs since 2010, with steady gains interrupted only by the COVID-19 pandemic. Roughly 14,000 manufacturing jobs were added between 2010 and 2022 — with more than half (around 7,400) coming about in the last five years. Prominent players run the gamut from defense behemoth Lockheed Martin to Orlando-based boat manufacturer Correct Craft to Mitsubishi Power Americas, which makes power generation technologies.
Tim Giuliani, president and CEO of the Orlando Economic Partnership, says Central Florida offers some key advantages to manufacturers, including real estate without water constraints, a pipeline of skilled workers, and a convenient location, especially as companies reevaluate their supply chains. “Being closer to consumers and customers is important… You look at Orlando in particular, you’re at the crossroads of the state, so from a logistics standpoint and getting material in and out, we have a good value proposition there.”
BUSINESS TO WATCH
Micross Components, Apopka
In March 2023, New York-based Micross Components — which makes chips and specialty electronics for aerospace, defense, health care and other industries — moved its Orlando operations to an 85,000-sq.-ft. factory in Apopka that doubled its space. The company expects to grow its local headcount by 10-20% over the next couple of years. Micross is part of a small but growing semiconductor and microelectronics manufacturing cluster in Central Florida. SkyWater Technology, a Bloomington, Minn.-based chip maker, set up shop in Osceola County’s NeoCity district back in 2021. Over on the Space Coast, Rogue Valley Microdevices, an Oregon-based microelectronics manufacturer, is planning to build a fabrication facility in Palm Bay that will create 75 jobs over the next five years, with an average wage of $65,267.
Orlando-Kissimmee- Sanford MSA
- 51,126: Employment
- 2,353: Establishments
- $77,581: Average Annual Pay
Palm Bay-Melbourne- Titusville MSA
- 30,983: Employment
- 726: Establishments
- $102,772: Average Annual Pay
Deltona-Daytona Beach- Ormond Beach MSA
- 12,070: Employment
- 595: Establishments
- $62,989: Average Annual Pay
The region is a powerhouse for aviation, defense and aerospace manufacturing, with giants such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin on the north side of the Space Coast and Collins Aerospace, Leonardo DRS, Northrop Grumman, L3Harris and Embraer operating to the south. A new era of private space activity is adding to the activity. Adjacent to Kennedy Space Center, Airbus OneWeb Satellites is churning out roughly two satellites per day. Nearby, Blue Origin operates a 650,000-sq.-ft. rocket manufacturing complex. Space Perspective, a space tourism company that plans to shuttle people to the edge of space in its space balloons, recently opened a balloon factory at the Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville.
Manufacturing represents 13% of non-farm payrolls in the Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville Metropolitan Statistical Area, compared to an 8% U.S. average. Manufacturing jobs in the MSA grew 19% between 2001 and 2019, compared to a 28% decline across the nation.
Lynda Weatherman, president and CEO of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, says the community’s drive to increase economic diversification — especially in manufacturing — has “fortified” the region against economic downturns. “Not only do we outpace the state and nation in manufacturing employment, but we also continue to witness robust growth in manufacturing across several key industries,” she says. “We have recently witnessed excellent examples of this through location announcements from companies like Amazon (which is opening a satellite-processing facility at Kennedy Space Center), Space Perspective and Rogue Valley Microdevices, in addition to a growing number of international companies such as Dassault Falcon Jet.”
BUSINESS TO WATCH
Lockheed Martin, Titusville
In its 55,000-sq.-ft. Titusville factory, Lockheed Martin is readying parts of NASA’s Orion spacecraft for future Artemis missions to the moon and beyond. Work there includes everything from sub-assembly manufacturing to sewing the straps that will keep astronauts feet firmly on the floor when they’re using the toilet. The center also is also assembling and testing the heat shields and backshell panels that will keep the spacecraft safe during reentry when temperatures hit 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about half as hot as the surface of the sun. Lockheed is on a team led by Blue Origin to develop a lunar lander to ferry astronauts to the surface of the moon, though it’s unclear if the work will happen in Titusville.
The First Coast Manufacturers Association reports there are more than 1,100 manufacturing companies, supplying over 34,000 jobs and generating nearly 15% of the total gross regional product. The average wage for manufacturing jobs in the region is $66,551. Jacksonville is home to large-scale manufacturers such as Johnson & Johnson Vision, Anheuser-Busch, BAE Systems, Baker Hughes, Medtronic and Northrop Grumman. In the past year, seven advanced manufacturing projects were announced in Northeast Florida, with $500 million in capital investment creating more than 850 jobs. The region is also home to Cecil Commerce Center, the largest aviation industrial park in the Southeast. Nassau County is home to the Diamond Industrial Park, which is approved for up to 10.5 million square feet of heavy industrial land use.
BUSINESS TO WATCH
Plant Agricultural Systems, Sanderson
In Baker County, agri-tech company Plant Agricultural Systems is investing $750 million in the development of advanced production facilities, with plans to hire more than 600 full-time employees over the next eight years.
The Fort Lauderdale-based agricultural services provider of physical and digital hydroponics systems plans to build facilities spanning 8.1 million square feet across 772 acres in the town of Sanderson. The facilities will grow leafy greens and vine crops in a solar-powered plant that uses 70-90% less water than conventional agriculture.
The farm relies on data centers supported by artificial intelligence processing and deploys blockchain technology in its supply chain, allowing consumers to trace the produce they buy to its production using a digital code.
- 4,603: Employment
- 229: Establishments
- $64,495: Average Annual Pay
- 33,634: Employment
- 1,319: Establishments
- $78,985: Average Annual Pay
When Northwest Florida markets itself to manufacturers, it emphasizes its available land, cost-efficient power supplies and the network of nearly 800 manufacturers who already call the region home. But the one difference that the region says sets it apart? The 3,000 military personnel who are re-entering civilian life, bringing specialized skills and training. The region also has logistic advantages for manufacturers with Interstate 10, three deep-water ports, two foreign trade zones and access to four additional ports.
As a result of a settlement from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, $1.5 billion has been directed to eight coastal counties in Northwest Florida to aid in economic diversification. The fund provides incentives through ad valorem tax abatements, workforce training and infrastructure investments. Triumph Gulf Coast, the agency that administers the oil spill settlement funds, has invested more than $250 million in more than 40 projects ranging from an aircraft maintenance campus to an international port terminal to the expansion of welding, aviation mechanics and commercial drivers’ license training programs.
BUSINESS TO WATCH
Central Moloney, Panama City and Crestview
Central Moloney, a manufacturer of distribution transformers and transformer components headquartered in Arkansas, did one better in its announcement it was bringing new facilities to Northwest Florida. It announced two new locations and that its Panhandle operations will employ 550 with a capital investment of $75 million.
In January 2022, CMI made its first commitment to the region by announcing the establishment of a $25-million, 140,000-sq.-ft. advanced manufacturing facility in Panama City that produces pole-mounted transformers. The company plans to create at least 200 jobs once the facility is at full capacity. This year, CMI announced its plans to build a 302,000-sq.-ft. plant in Crestview, making it the first tenant at the 10,500-acre Shoal River Ranch industrial park. The cost of constructing and equipping the facility is projected to be $50 million and 350 jobs are planned.
Jennifer Conoley, president and CEO of economic development organization Florida’s Great Northwest, says 830 direct, indirect and induced jobs are projected, equaling more than $46.7 million in new salaries. Chris Hart, president and CEO of CMI, said other locations were considered, but “the opportunities and incentives in Northwest Florida made it a can’t-miss. Northwest Florida is the future for us.”
Crestview-Fort Walton Beach- Destin MSA
- 3,455: Employment
- 243: Establishments
- $76,663: Average Annual Pay
Panama City MSA
- 3,220: Employment
- 165: Establishments
- $62,716: Average Annual Pay
- 3,966: Employment
- 1,350: Establishments
- $70,220: Average Annual Pay
Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent MSA
- 6,859: Employment
- 358: Establishments
- $74,608: Average Annual Pay