Micro Star Innovations is one of those companies that builds things many people come into contact with every day, but seldom think twice about.
The company, in Largo since 2004, makes gadgets including after-market window switches for cars, specialized light bulb housings and high-tech laparoscopic surgical tools.
Now, thanks to a tax break, the company's 35 human employees and army of robotic workers might soon see new colleagues.
Micro Star will get the state-backed Qualified Targeted Industry tax incentive, which retroactively refunds taxes to some high-growth industries that add high-paying jobs in the state. The condition: The company must add 30 new positions over the next three years.
The state will pay for 80 percent of the $120,000 tax break, and Pinellas County and the city of Largo will each pay 10 percent.
"They've got some really nice jobs coming. This was a QTI that the city of Largo was very pleased to do," said Teresa Brydon, Largo Economic Development manager. "It's very much well worth it. It's not just the 30 jobs — it's the ability to have them help other businesses be able to stay."
Micro Star relies on many suppliers for components, Brydon said, and many toolmakers and metalworking shops are within easy reach. Pinellas County is home to the second-largest manufacturing base in the state, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The largest is Miami-Dade.
Largo officials voted unanimously to pay for the city's share of the break in October, but at the time, the company was anonymous, except to Brydon and a few other city staff members. The secrecy was due to confidential information contained in the company's application, including employment budgets and profit margins.
The veil was removed this week, after Micro Star's application was approved by all parties.
The company's parent, privately owned Micro Stamping Corp. of Somerset, N.J., has about 270 employees and estimated annual sales of $60 million, according to business profiling company Hoovers.
Phil Johnson, general manager of Micro Star Innovations, said most of the jobs would be engineering and research and development positions, paying at least $55,953.
Johnson said Micro Star's corporate parent decided to expand the Florida center instead of branches in South Carolina and New Jersey because of the tax incentive, as well as lower labor costs and proximity to other industrial facilities. No job postings have yet been announced.
He said the company deals with dozens of local suppliers, and uses robots to reduce labor costs to stay competitive with foreign suppliers.
"We're hoping the expansion will be relatively quick. It looks pretty aggressive. One or two years," Johnson said. "We're just trying to make it in a rough economy."
Dominick Tao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4154.