By Erika Webb
The excitement level was as high as the heat index at the Kingspan Insulated Panels Inc. ribbon-cutting ceremony in DeLand June 26.
Kingspan is the largest manufacturer of insulated panels in the world, operating plants and employing nearly 5,000 people in 40 countries. Its DeLand manufacturing facility recently became the global corporation's North American headquarters, promising at least 40 new well-paying jobs and the potential for that number to double in the next four years.
Kingspan already employs 132 workers at the DeLand location.
City and county officials, as well as Kingspan, executives spoke to the crowd about the company and the positive impact its activities will have on the local economy.
Russell Shiels, president of Kingspan North America, said the company was faced with a massive challenge to decide how to integrate and where to house the corporate headquarters for its panel division, the largest of United Kingdom-based Kingspan Ltd.'s four divisions. Other divisions are Insulation Boards, Access Floors and Environmental.
Decision making came down to two areas of priority: people and a friendly business environment -- "knowing the support would be there," Mr. Shiels said.
The facility on Summerhill Drive near the DeLand Airport already had a "great base of people;" the goal was to retain existing employees and attract new talent, he explained.
"The decision to make DeLand our corporate headquarters was a very, very simple one," Mr. Shiels said.
Volusia County and Enterprise Florida Inc., which helps innovative, high growth businesses start up, locate or expand in the state, have acted as funding partners for Kingspan's endeavor.
Griff Salmon, executive vice president and COO of Enterprise Florida, called economic development a team sport, one in which city, state and locals get together to make things happen.
The fact this high-growth industry leader chose DeLand says something about the way business is conducted and encouraged here, Mr. Salmon said.
"If the city, county and state work together, amazing things can happen," he added.
County Councilwoman Pat Northey said Kingspan Insulated Panels has been approved for Qualified Targeted Industry incentives of up to $90,000.
QTI incentives are performance-based tax refunds for companies creating new jobs at an average annual wage of $37,354 or more.
The County Council contributed to the incentive by approving the required local financial support amount of 20 percent, or $18,000, Councilwoman Northey said.
She anticipates word of Kingspan's location choice will spread.
"I can only imagine that we'll begin receiving more attention from other companies who want to experience what Kingspan already (is) ... that our community is a great place to do business and a wonderful place to live," she said.
The company selected DeLand over Ontario due to year-round climate advantages and lower production costs, according to a news release from the communications office of Gov. Rick Scott.
The new jobs, retention of current positions, and $2.5 million in capital investment -- to upgrade and purchase equipment and remodel the DeLand facility -- over the next three years will add more than $2 million in annual wages to the local economy, the release reported.
"Kingspan's decision to establish their North American headquarters in DeLand is great news for Florida families," Gov. Scott stated in the release. "Industry-leading companies like Kingspan are the reason we worked so hard in the recent legislative session to improve the tax climate for manufacturing companies."
In a move to encourage those companies to grow and expand in Florida, Gov. Scott and the Legislature recently eliminated the sales tax on the purchase of manufacturing machinery and equipment for the next three years.
A powerful economic engine for the state's economy, Florida manufacturing operations benefit from the presence of advanced research facilities at the state's universities and colleges, military installations, and NASA, according to the release, which reported "the industry cluster counts nearly 18,000 manufacturers who employ more than 300,000 workers statewide."
Secretary of Commerce Gray Swoope said a strong workforce and top-ranked infrastructure make Florida the perfect state for manufacturers to locate and expand.
Kingspan started manufacturing in DeLand in 2008 after buying Metecno, which purchased Aluma Shield Industries in 2006. Aluma Shield started out across from Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach in 1974 and expanded into DeLand in 1986.
Mayor Bob Apgar thanked Kingspan for its investment in the city.
"It's not just the 30 jobs you announce today," Mayor Apgar said. "It's the 100 to 200 you announce in two years. I promise you will not be disappointed."
The mayor also thanked city, county and state officials and staff, Enterprise Florida, the Volusia Manufacturer's Association, DeLand's economic development committee and chamber of commerce as well as Workforce Florida and the Center for Business Excellence for their contributions to the effort.
"Teamwork made today possible," Mayor Apgar said.