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Steelmakers: First one, then another bite bullet



Franksanchez Maybe I'm getting paranoid, but "manufacturing" and "Tampa Bay" seem to go together about as well as oil and water. Chalk up another manufacturing bankruptcy while I was off last week to Tampa's Innovative Steel Technologies (here's Google's cached version of its apparently defunct Web site). Don't shrug and say "Who?" just yet. This is the business that Tampa's Renaissance Steel LLC, a light-gauge structural steel building business founded in late 2004 and in recent years run by former Tampa mayoral candidate Frank Sanchez (shown in  photo), sold out to early this year. Sanchez was tapped in May 2006 by Renaissance shareholders, including developer William Bishop and Don Wallace, founder of Lazy Days RV Center Inc., to run the company. Renaissance, intended to focus on making steel trusses for the housing industry, did not prosper. Bad timing, anyone?

Apparently Innovative Steel, Renaissance's successor run by CEO and Riverview resident Doug Biddle, had no better luck. A diminished Innovative reported it had seven employees and revenues of $1.5-million at the time of bankruptcy. Biddle told the Tampa Bay Business Journal that Innovative Steel was a combination of Renaissance and Panasteel Building Solutions in Port St. Lucie, another company a group of investors acquired through an asset purchase deal.

Sanchez was special assistant to the president in 1999, working in the Office of the Special Envoy for the Americas, and later became the Assistant Secretary of Transportation in the Clinton administration. In 2003, Sanchez faced Pam Iorio in the Tampa mayoral race, which Iorio won in a runoff election. This year, Sanchez was serving as a Latin American policy adviser for the Obama presidential campaign when he was named the campaign's national chair of Latino and Hispanic fundraising.

Renaissance Steel was born about five years ago as part of a bigger dream by a group of private investors (including Wallace, one of the major backers of Sanchez’s 2003 mayoral race; developers Bishop,Tracy Harris and Bing Kearney, and Sanchez.) One-time Olympic promoter Ed Turanchik, with backing from Bishop and Wallace, tried to transform one of Tampa's poorest  neighborhoods into an upscale community with tree-lined sidewalks and tranquil parks. The new community was to have been called Civitas but it never came to fruition.

(Photo of Frank Sanchez by Chris Zuppa of the St. Petersburg Times.)

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

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