We sponsored a table at the Upper Tampa Bay Manufacturer’s Association First Annual Appreciation dinner last month. Many years ago, I was a founding director of the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce. Joan Vecchioli, my partner certified in employment law, has been very active in the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber. I cannot tell you all how thoroughly impressed and proud I am of the progress and strength of these organizations.
The guest speaker was Jesse Panuccio, the Executive Director of the Florida Economic Opportunity Commission. His message was loud and clear. Florida, and especially the Tampa Bay region, is uniquely positioned in the manufacturing sector. His speech was upbeat, positive and incredibly informative as to the opportunity we all have in stimulating economic growth in our region via the manufacturing sector. This means JOBS.
Some interesting statistics supplied to me by Jerry Custin, the President/CEO of the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce are as follows:
- There are approximately 17,000 manufacturers in Florida and nearly 25% of those are in the Tampa Bay region. There are approximately 1,500 manufacturers within a 10-mile radius of Oldsmar.
- Manufacturers account for nearly 80% of Florida’s exports.
- Manufacturers pay approximately a 20% higher wage rates than other service sector jobs.
This is not to say our region is not without its challenges. A few of those challenges are as follows:
- Adequate stock of decent and safe affordable housing. This has and continues to be one of the priorities of Pinellas County and is critical if we are to attract and retain manufacturers in our area.
- Developing a sustainable world class work force and attracting younger skilled workers as our current skilled workers retire. St. Petersburg College is developing an excellent certification program for skilled workers.
- Support of our start-up and small manufacturers through cooperative public/private partnerships and economic incentives. All of the area Chambers are making good progress in spearheading partnerships.
Manufacturers are special to me. I was born in Miami, and grew up in a manufacturing family. My father worked for a window and door manufacturer in Hialeah, Florida, which was bought by Jim Walter Corporation. I learned the value of hard work from the many Cuban immigrants who were proud to have a job in the factory to support their families. I also learned the importance of education as a stepping stone. Dennis Ruppel ran his family’s successful tool and die company for many years. We understand the issues and challenges manufacturers face.
Our firm’s skill set in representing manufacturers is very broad and deep. We can assist any manufacturer in many ways, including but not limited to:
- Financing and capital needs, including asset based or SBA loans, industrial revenue bonds, private placements and public offerings;
- Labor and employment law issues;
- Intellectual property issues, including licensing, trademarks, strategic alliance agreements, manufacturing agreements, distribution agreements and supply agreements.
- Liquidity events, including sales and mergers, venture capital and private equity investments.
- General litigation needs with a special emphasis on covenants not to compete, shareholder disputes and intellectual property rights.
- Executive compensation arrangements, including stock options and other equity incentive arrangements.
- Various tax matters, including IRS representation and multiple state sales tax issues.
- Succession and estate planning for the closely held or family owned manufacturer.
- All aspects of real estate from zoning, leases and property acquisitions.
So let’s buckle our seatbelts. I think the growth we are going to experience in the Tampa Bay region will be tremendous over the next 10 years. I am proud and humbled to play my small part in this exciting time.