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Trigaux: As Jabil hits 50, CEO tells shareholders St. Petersburg company's just warming up

St. Petersburg’s Jabil also has a spot in Silicon Valley, its Blue Sky Center. The company recently turned 50. [Photo courtesy of Jabil] 
Published Jan. 22, 2016

At 50 years of age, Jabil is looking pretty spry.

The St. Petersburg electronics manufacturing company celebrated its half-century mark Thursday morning, telling a small gathering of investors at its annual shareholders meeting that the next 50 years could be a blockbuster.

"How crazy is it as we sit here today as a Fortune 200 company that we started at the Morean kitchen table in Michigan," Jabil CEO Mark Mondello said in sentimental remarks at the annual meeting, which Jabil has held for many years at the Renaissance Vinoy Golf Club on Snell Isle.

Bill Morean, the "bil" in the Jabil name, co-founded the business in 1966 providing circuit board repair services.

Morean's son, also called Bill, ran Jabil for a while after its move to St. Petersburg before he moved out West. His sister, Beth, has been a big philanthropist in the St. Petersburg arts community.

Fifty years and one relocation to Florida later, Jabil's on track to generate more than $20 billion in revenues in its 2016 fiscal year. It operates close to 100 manufacturing facilities in over two dozen countries while employing more than 180,000 people.

Mondello himself is barely older than the company that made him its CEO in 2013. He has worked at Jabil close to half his life. In trying to capture the culture at Jabil, he used words like "resilient" and "nimble," "crazy" and "caring" and "raw work ethic" to describe a business that works hard, plays hard and takes care of its own.

"There are no mahogany offices," Mondello said, "and not a lot of fancy stuff" where Jabil top executives work.

Jabil is hardly a household name. But its customers are.

Jabil provided electronics manufacturing expertise to companies like Control Data in the 1960s and GM in the 1970s. That was back when Jabil was a "scrappy" and "rough little Midwestern company," said two long-term Jabil directors who are retiring.

Jabil added IBM as a customer in the 1980s with the rise of the PC. By the 1990s and the rise of the Internet, Cisco, NEC and Sun Microsystems became big clients.

Today, Apple is one of Jabil's biggest customers as both companies have profitably ridden the worldwide iPhone craze.

"We're the brand behind the brands," a Jabil video boasts.

Lately, it has been a rough ride for Jabil shareholders in a bear market that's stung most stock investors. From a one-year high near $26 a share as recently as early December, Jabil shares have lost nearly a quarter of their value.

Jabil's not worried. It's diversified into industries like health care, defense and consumer lifestyles. And it will keep buying firms like consumer packaging expert Nypro to broaden its expertise.

Whatever happened to Jabil's possible relocation of its headquarters to downtown St. Petersburg? The idea on the back burner still lingers.

At 50, Jabil's earned the right to take its time on some matters.

Contact Robert Trigaux at rtrigaux@tampabay.com. Follow @venturetampabay.

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