CLEARWATER — In the throes of what's being called a "jobless recovery," there's a bit of good news: About 50 well-paying manufacturing jobs are coming to the Clearwater-Largo area.
Specialty truck maker Oshkosh Corp. is relocating two of its business units to Florida this year, adding jobs in Clearwater and Bradenton.
Oshkosh, a $10 billion company based in Wisconsin, is making two simultaneous moves.
Its Oshkosh Specialty Vehicles unit will relocate to Clearwater and merge with Frontline Communications, adding about 50 manufacturing and office positions. And its Medtec Ambulance unit will relocate and consolidate with Pierce Manufacturing in Bradenton, adding 100 to 150 more jobs.
Oshkosh Specialty Vehicles, which makes high-tech mobile medical imaging vehicles and transportable trailers, is relocating work from manufacturing plants in Harvey and Calumet City, Ill. It will merge with the Clearwater operation of Frontline, a maker of command and communications vehicles and broadcast vehicles.
Frontline, located at 12770 44th St. N in unincorporated Pinellas County, has a Clearwater mailing address but is closer to Largo. It's just south of St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.
For the new jobs, Oshkosh has pledged to pay an average annual salary of at least $57,897 — 150 percent of Pinellas County's average annual wage of $38,598.
"Announcing new jobs is a great way to begin the year, and promoting Pinellas' pro-business climate to encourage the creation of high-wage careers is our priority," Pinellas County Commission chairwoman Susan Latvala said.
The news is an economic boost to Pinellas and Manatee counties, which currently have unemployment rates of 12.4 percent and 12.6 percent, respectively.
The planned relocations will qualify Oshkosh for up to $1.44 million in economic development incentives, with the state of Florida contributing $1.07 million; Manatee County, $333,732; and Pinellas County, $40,000.
In return, Oshkosh pledges to invest $5 million in capital improvements to expand Florida operations. The two units are part of Oshkosh's Fire & Emergency division, which currently employs about 450 in Florida.
"Relocation decisions are always difficult, but this will improve operational efficiencies, optimize manufacturing capacity and allow us to be successful in today's highly competitive markets," said Jim Johnson, Oshkosh executive vice president and president of Fire & Emergency.
Oshkosh is not affiliated with the well-known children's apparel brand OshKosh B'Gosh.