April 20, 2024

Economic yearbook 2009

Treasure Coast Yearbook 2009

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

Mike Vogel | 4/1/2009
Who's Hiring
» Liberator Medical Holdings in Stuart plans to add 50 jobs.
» Despite being investigated for allegedly trying to defraud the federal government, Liberty Medical is hiring 800, mostly for call-center jobs.

Stuart / Martin County

“We were flying high, but the bottom has fallen out.” That’s the dismal summation from Stuart/Martin County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Joe Catrambone. Custom builders who wouldn’t touch a remodeling job now are eager to have the work. Banks say they can’t afford their chamber dues. The unemployment rate, 9.6%, is double that of a year ago. Housing starts are down to a trickle. John and Barbara O’Brien’s Gulfstream Aluminum & Shutter in Stuart was planning a 5,000-sq.-ft. addition, but they put it on hold “until we see what this economy is doing.” Two years ago, they employed 100; now, 45.

Shirley Pomponi
Shirley Pomponi, executive director of the Harbor Branch Oceangraphic Institute in Fort Pierce, is overseeing a $45-million renovation of
the institute.
[Photo: Deborah Silver]

People to Watch

» From the five-person Stuart office of their 6-year-old Shelter Structures, Patty Smail and her husband, Charly, develop and sell custom-designed, fabric-covered steel-frame buildings. The structures are in use in south Florida quarries and Libyan oilfields; two serve as an Air Force hangar in Kuwait. The company brings in $2.5 million in annual revenue. “End of last year, everything stopped (but) the calls are happening again,” says Patty Smail.

Business to Watch

» Liberator Medical Holdings in Stuart, a direct-to-consumer supplier to Medicare-eligible seniors, will add 50 jobs to its existing 100 as it expands its headquarters and call center in Stuart. Liberator turned a $376,766 profit in the first quarter on $5.45 million in revenue. CEO Mark Libratore, 58, founded Liberty Medical, which he sold to PolyMedica in 1996.

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