April 1, 2023

Economic yearbook 2009

Treasure Coast Yearbook 2009

With housing at a standstill, a diversification effort forges ahead.

Mike Vogel | 4/1/2009
Treasure Coast

“End of last year, everything stopped, (but) the calls are happening again.” — Patty Smail, owner, Shelter Structures

Vero Beach / Indian River County

See population, income and job statistics from this region.
Indian River, though one of the wealthiest counties in Florida, is feeling the recession along with the rest. Housing starts have fallen to 2001 levels, unemployment is 10.8% and the county’s largest private employer, aircraft maker Piper, has laid off 450 of its 1,100 workforce in the last six months, cut employee hours and is sending remaining employees on four weeks of unpaid time off to conserve cash. The state and county spent big to keep Piper, inducing it to stay last year with a $32-million incentive package. Piper took the first $10.7 million of that last year but has postponed the rest since the money was tied to expanding to more than 1,400 jobs by the end of 2012.
Patty Smail
Patty Smail’s Shelter Structures, based in Stuart, makes custom-designed, fabric-covered steel-frame buildings. [Photo: Jeffrey Salter]

Businesses to Watch

» California-based New Planet Energy is considering building an ethanol plant in Indian River County that would employ as many as 124 people. “It’s a substantial project,” says spokesman Jim Stewart.

» Fast-growing Bridgevine — from startup in 2003 to $19.3 million revenue in 2008 — expects to grow this year and add three or four positions in Vero, but “with the economy in the shape that it’s in now, we’re taking it on a quarter-by-quarter basis,” says CEO Vinny Olmstead. Bridgevine allows customers to shop online for everything from internet service to a dating service.

People to Watch

» Lisa Parker, 40, clinical operations manager for the United States for ADA Medical, a Canadian clinical research company, is leading the company’s expansion into the U.S. in Vero Beach. ADA will work with local physicians on phase two and phase three pharmaceutical trials. “There is a real need in this area for this type of business,” says Parker, a Florida native.

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