BROOKSVILLE — In late 2012, Gov. Rick Scott visited Hernando County to tout new headquarters and a massive manufacturing plant for Accuform Signs as one of the largest business projects going on in Florida.
Now, Accuform's CEO says the company, which manufactures and sells safety-related signs, has tabled the expansion at Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport.
"We met with the county about a month ago and asked them to put the whole project on hold,'' said CEO Wayne Johnson.
While the company has been meeting monthly with county officials to walk through the permit process, Accuform also has been pursuing the acquisition of a competitor's company.
"We have to wait and see what our needs really are,'' Johnson said. "In most scenarios, we believe we will be able to relocate (any acquired company) to Brooksville and meet our job creation target.''
In the meantime, Accuform is still expanding its existing business, with about 300 employees at this point and a 15 percent annual growth factor.
One thing that might improve that is a recent licensing agreement the company signed with A&E Networks. In about a month, Accuform will begin rolling out a series of safety sign products featuring the Robertson family from the popular Duck Dynasty program.
Accuform's original announcement in October 2012 envisioned a $15 million, 300,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility. The site for the building was a 44-acre parcel owned by the airport at Corporate Boulevard and Aerial Way. The building was to open sometime this year.
Eventually, the size of the workforce from the existing Accuform location at the airport would increase by 271. There were 280 workers at the time.
Months later, Johnson said, the plan changed from one big building to two smaller buildings on the same site. One would be a 200,000-square-foot manufacturing center; the other a 100,000-square-foot office and training center. That configuration would be easier to sell if the company ever decided to do that, Johnson said.
The last time the County Commission acted on the Accuform expansion was in late December. Commissioners agreed to lengthen the time Accuform had to file its first job creation agreement. Construction was months behind the original schedule due to delays in grant funding and physical site work.
The company was still reporting plans to create 271 new jobs.
County Administrator Len Sossamon said Wednesday that the tabling of the project was discouraging, but that he was trying to stay positive about Accuform bringing new jobs to the area. Because Johnson has not signed the lease, if another company wants the proposed Accuform site, the county is free to lease it.
Sossamon, who doubles as Hernando's economic development director, said he has prospects.
He also noted that county staffers have checked and that the $1.5 million Community Development Block Grant for infrastructure at the site will not be affected by the news. Sossamon was not sure about the status of a $1 million grant the county received from the Florida Department of Transportation for road work.