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Plant City manufacturing firm James Hardie adding 100 jobs, investing $80 million in expansion

James Hardie, an Irish manufacturer of fiber cement siding, plans to invest $80 million in an expansion of its Plant City operations that will create 100 new jobs by 2015.

"This is an exciting time for James Hardie in both Plant City and around the world," Ryan Sullivan, south division general manager for James Hardie, said Tuesday. "This process expansion underscores the importance of our local workforce and its ability to meet our customers' needs, and build upon James Hardie's innovative legacy that began in 1888."

The announcement caps off a particularly strong year for job creation throughout Hillsborough County. Most recently, health care firm Covidien promised to create up to 165 new jobs in opening a manufacturing center in Riverview.

Among other pledges in Hillsborough this year: USAA said it will add up to 1,215 jobs by 2019 as it builds a 420,000-square-foot facility in Brandon; HealthPlan Services is adding 1,000 jobs in Tampa; Amazon plans to build warehouses in Ruskin and Lakeland, adding about 1,000 jobs; Bristol-Myers Squibb is adding 579 jobs by 2017; Time Warner plans to create 500 jobs by 2016; and Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. is adding 255 jobs at its campus by 2016.

Last year, the city of Plant City approved a moratorium on collecting transportation mobility fees to make itself more competitive in pursuing economic development projects. As a result of that program, James Hardie will receive a fee waiver of $37,300.

The company also will be eligible for a sales tax exemption for new machinery and equipment, a new pro-business incentive approved by the Florida Legislature this year.

The news is a coup for efforts to bolster Florida's manufacturing sector in particular. Although Florida has added 182,000 jobs over the past year, many of them are in the lower-paying retail and tourism arenas. The state continues to struggle in the manufacturing industry, which is up just 400 jobs year-over-year.

"This is a big win for Plant City and Hillsborough County," said Allen Brinkman, chairman of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. and chairman, president and CEO of SunTrust Bank Tampa Bay. "Manufacturing projects are among the most competitive and highly prized in economic development, and as the industry begins to show signs of recovery and expansion, we're well-positioned to leverage this momentum."

Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Mark Sharpe said the latest news, coming after other job-creation announcements such as Covidien's, shows that efforts to bolster manufacturing are paying off.

James Hardie said it will double its production capacity through the expansion. It plans to retrofit an existing pipe plant for sheet production, adding 100,000 square feet.

Based in Dublin, Ireland, James Hardie bills itself as the first company to introduce fiber cement siding products to the United States as a durable, lower-maintenance alternative to wood, oriented strand board (or OSB) and vinyl siding. The company opened operations in Plant City in 1994 and currently has about 100 workers at a facility on S Woodrow Wilson Street.

Plant City manufacturing firm James Hardie adding 100 jobs, investing $80 million in expansion 12/03/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 3, 2013 7:43pm]
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