Former Wellcraft plant in Florida to be bought

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Florida-based JRL Enterprises Inc. plans to purchase the former Wellcraft manufacturing facility in South Manatee County to expand the composite tool-making business of an affiliated company, JRL Ventures Inc.

The expansion is projected to create at least 80 new jobs over three years, president and CEO Bob Long announced.

The former Wellcraft facility has been sitting idle since 2008, when the operation was moved, Sharon Hillstrom, president of the Manatee Economic Development Corp., said in a statement, adding, "We are pleased to work with Bob Long, whose engineering and custom composite manufacturing business will bring this large property back to life with high-impact jobs."

Long, who was president of Wellcraft in Manatee County from 1976 through the early 1990s, is the owner and chief executive of JRL Enterprises, its affiliate, JRL Ventures, and an associated business, Marine Concepts.

When Long and his wife, Karen, purchased Marine Concepts in 1994, the company had 15 employees. Today it has 135. The companies provide sophisticated design engineering and manufacturing of composite-material plugs and molds used by other manufacturers to create parts and products. The companies' work is used in a wide array of finished products, such as flight simulators, wind energy blades, boats and rocket parts for NASA.

"Thanks to our fantastic team of employees and our dedicated customers, we are busting at the seams at our current locations in Cape Coral and Pine Island," Long said in a statement. "We searched in Lee County for an appropriate facility and considered out-of-state opportunities, but we ultimately turned to Manatee County, where I had worked for so long. The former Wellcraft facility has the elements we need, such as size, ventilation and some necessary equipment. It's virtually ready to house our expanded operations right away, which is essential to our meeting production schedules for our customers."

"Thankfully, Florida was able to accommodate JRL's expansion needs, which has positioned the state for 80 new jobs," Enterprise Florida president and CEO Gray Swoope said in a statement. "The teamwork and commitment to supporting JRL that was demonstrated in this project reflects our state's business-friendly culture."

In addition to purchasing the property, Long says the company is purchasing an additional 5-axis CNC router that will operate at the new Manatee County location at a cost of almost $1 million installed. The substantial capital investment that the company will make in buying the property and additional equipment, combined with the potential for creating 80 new jobs and preserving at least 135 existing Florida jobs, qualified JRL Ventures for performance-based economic development incentives from the state and Manatee County government.


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