Friday, January 14, 2011

Boating plan goes after niche market

Tim Norwood (provided photo)
Tim Norwood is going after a very specific market with his proposed boat factory, as featured in today's Bradenton Herald Business section.

The concept he is working on for Row Norwood is whitehall row boats and crew boats. According to those in the marine industry, these types of recreational boats are ideal in a down economy.

The boats require less maintenance, no fuel, and are what first-time boaters usually start with, says Gordon Connell, director of association services at the Marine Industries Association of South Florida.

"The number of people doing real basic, entry-level rowing and paddle boating has become quite popular," Connell says. "There will continue to be a slice or segment in the industry for these type of boats."

But with any type of business, niche marketing can come with some downfalls.

"You have a greater dependency on one particular market and therefore there's more risk," says Joe Pfeiffer, volunteer business counselor for Manasota SCORE, a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration. "Everything is so defined."

On the other hand, Pfeiffer says market segmentation allows entrepreneurs to build closer relationships with their client base and better reach them through advertising. And Pfeiffer, who is also a business consultant in the Bradenton-Sarasota area, sees more established businesses going this route because -- you guessed it -- of the economy.

"Businesses have done everything they can to cut costs, so now they're really focused on trying to expand sales," Pfeiffer said. "They're finding a better niche market may be an opportunity for that."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Building business with a passion

Dell Hyland is a perfect example of those who build a business based on a passion for something, as reported in my 1A business story today.

The U.S. Marine veteran and 17-year veteran of the security industry is proposing a multi-use training facility for fire, police, emergency rescue and private security agencies.

Hyland is still working on building his startup, Wide World Security, in the region. And, while the proposed training center that could cost upwards of $150 million is a major undertaking, Hyland is determined.

"It was always my intent to grow with the community, to provide a better service of security and make it a safer place to live and raise a family," said Hyland, a 10-year resident of Lakewood Ranch.

After the Marines, Hyland's security career has involved event staff for concerts, executive protection and celebrity protection. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and after participating in the relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina, Hyland felt compelled to turn his passion into something bigger.

Wide World Security is Hyland's vision for what he hopes will improve security nationwide. And it's a vision that could bring 100 jobs to this area.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Cold snaps make for scarce, costly produce

On a grocery run after work Tuesday evening, I circled the produce section several times looking for strawberries, thinking I was not looking carefully enough. Another customer, too, wondered where the red berries were and asked the produce clerk: "No more strawberries?"

The clerk politely informed us that strawberries -- what there are of them -- have been selling out by early afternoon during these recent winter weeks. As the Bradenton Herald reports Saturday with news partner Miami Herald, the cold snap is causing some vegetables and fruit to be more costly these days.

Though strawberries weren't hit as hard as other Florida crops, other crops were not as fortunate. Florida tomatoes were among some of the hardest hit in Florida. Many growers lost all of their tomato crop and prices for tomatoes increased about 25 to 40 percent across the board.

"As soon as (farmers) knew they were going to lose those crops, tomato prices shot up," said George Caldwell, director of purchasing at Global Organics Specialty Source, a Manatee County-based organic supply company.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Flashing red light means hot job news

Pierce Manufacturing in Bradenton
will create 150 jobs this year.
(File photo by Tiffany Tompkins-Condie)
 The red message light lit up on my phone shortly after 10 a.m. today as I finished an interview.

I dialed into my voicemail and there was a message from Eric Basinger. The executive director of the Manatee Economic Development Council wanted to give me a heads-up on a news release his staff was writing up.

He didn't give any further information, but I figured a big announcement about jobs was on its way.

Indeed there was. The Bradenton-based Pierce Manufacturing will be hiring an estimated 150 people this year as its operations will be expanded to build ambulances.

The local business currently builds fire trucks, and its parent company Oshkosh Corp. is moving Medtech Ambulances to Bradenton. It's also moving Oshkosh Specialty Vehicles to its Clearwater plant Frontline Communications, which makes mobile command vehicles. That move will create 50 jobs in Pinellas County.

While the150 jobs doesn't come close to the 18,267 people who are out of work in Manatee County, it's a substantial gain for the area.

Oshkosh, a Fortune 350 company, has manufacturing operations in 11 states and Australia, Belgium, Canada and France, and chose Bradenton among all those options to move the majority. And those 150 jobs coming to Bradenton will combine for an annual payroll of $5.8 million in the first year.

That's $5.8 million that can be injected back into the region's economy.

"Overall, it's a major statement on any community when a Fortune 500 or 350 company says we've got all these business units around the world and we're choosing to move it to your community," Basinger said.

-- Grace Gagliano