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German company eyes Hernando as its U.S. headquarters

BROOKSVILLE — A German company that manufactures cruise ship staterooms is considering Hernando County for its U.S. headquarters.

Since August, R&M ShipTec has had the county Airport Industrial Park in its sights for a new manufacturing facility. It could mean 15 jobs for the county, and more in the future.

That's good news to the thousands who are jobless and struggling to make ends meet in a county that ranks near the top in the state in many gloomy economic indicators. Hernando has the third-highest unemployment rate, at 6.6 percent.

"We're certainly excited," said Valerie Pianta, program coordinator for the Hernando Office of Business Development. "They like the location here, feel we have the right work force and like the cost of the lease rates at the airport. But this isn't final yet."

Whether ShipTec comes to Hernando depends on whether the company receives a state grant, available through a Florida business incentive program.

The manufacturer applied for the program two weeks ago, Pianta said. If approved, ShipTec would be eligible for a $3,000 credit per job it creates.

While the state would pick up most of that tab, a 20 percent match, or total of $9,000, from the county would also be needed to seal the deal, Pianta explained. To apply, the company also committed to creating the 15 jobs and to pay $15.29 an hour.

"It's a smaller investment, but it's definitely an important one for our economy," she said. "To have 15 new jobs paying above average wage, that's a very good thing."

A leading producer of pre-made cabins for the passenger ship and ferry markets, ShipTec has plans to occupy 16,000 square feet at the airport. The company also plans to invest nearly $1-million in equipment.

Approximately 80 percent of the company's sales are outside the state.

With a sister installation company in Fort Lauderdale, the new manufacturing site would be the company's first in the country. Hernando is in competition with Philadelphia and Newport News, Va.

Located in the south-central portion of the county, the Airport Industrial Park offers quick access to Tampa International Airport and the Port of Tampa. It's one of only six general aviation airports in the state with such transportation access.

Word on the state grant is expected in the coming months. County commissioners are expected to discuss the project and the county's contribution next week.

Chandra Broadwater can be reached at cbroadwater@sptimes.com, or (352) 848-1432.

German company eyes Hernando as its U.S. headquarters 06/27/08 [Last modified: Friday, June 27, 2008 8:04pm]
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