Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sebring Regional Airport (KSEF) working on new tenant

SEBRING — Following the successful location of the new GulfCoast Supply & Manufacturing location at the Sebring Regional Airport’s industrial park, another new tenant reportedly in the works.

Code named “Project Nitrogen” by the Highlands County Economic Development Commission/Industrial Development Authority, the business reportedly is a frozen fruit novelty producer. Negotiations to land the firm have been in the works for several months.

“The company has a very unique technology in terms of processing fruit,” said Sebring Regional Airport Executive Director Mike Willingham. He said that at this point “things look very good” and that an announcement could be made within the next several weeks.

Reportedly, the company would construct a 40,000-square-foot facility at the industrial park.

At the end of their Tuesday meeting, Highlands county commissioners discussed allocating as much as $250,000 as an enticement to bring the business here. That money would come from the county’s reserve for contingency fund, which now stands at $600,000.

Highlands County Commission Chairman Greg Harris indicated that along with money, the county might be called upon to do some in-kind services, such as site preparation and the providing of some materials such as shell rock.

Willingham said such an action would not be unprecedented, and in fact, similar measures were done to help bring GulfCoast to the airport.

“The airport helped and made a significant investment in the development in their facility,” he said. “We financed the roof. Then through a rent credit, GulfCoast replaced the side of that building.”

Calling it a “dynamic and growing, first-class company,” Willingham said it appears that the initial investment is paying off.

When they opened, GulfCoast officials had indicated the operation would start up utilizing about two dozen employees with an eye toward as many as 40 employees when fully operational. Willingham said they have more than achieved that goal.

“They’re employing a lot more people in the first six to seven months than we thought they would have working in the first three to four years,” he said.

Willingham noted that in addition to the airport’s investment, GulfCoast also had made a sizable investment in the Sebring manufacturing facility.

“In my opinion, it certainly has been worth the effort — and the risk,” he said.

He added another company, the Italian-based TECNAM Aircraft also have been doing well.

TECNAM located at the airport industrial park in April, making their first aircraft delivery in early May.

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