State of Emergence
Aluma Tower Co. is in the midst of a strategic transformation. The company, based in Vero Beach, Fla., has the goal of quadrupling its revenues this year alone and is already well on its way toward achieving that goal.
“By end of February, we booked a quarter of all of what we made last year,” says Angela Ledford, the company’s president and general manager. Aluma, which produces portable aluminum towers used for communications, surveillance and meteorology, exports 60 percent of its products to more than 30 countries around the world.
Ledford’s growth strategy involves several prongs. “We are becoming more of an assembler than a fabricator,” she says. “We’re outsourcing fabrication to other vendors. We are also expanding our product line by capitalizing on our experience working with aluminum.”
Aluma’s growth will require additional space and personnel, and it is executing its strategy in Indian River County. From 32,000 square feet in two facilities, the company is looking for a consolidated 50,000-square-foot facility. Employee headcount will grow from 35 to as many as 75 by the end of this year.
Logistics and incentives are two of the advantages to Aluma’s current location. “Many of our shipments go through the ports of Jacksonville and Miami,” Ledford explains. “Good rail connections also enable us to ship out of West Coast ports to customers in the Philippines. We choose the route based on the customer’s time needs and the costs.”
Florida is all about logistics, agrees Bill Johnson, the state’s secretary of commerce and CEO of Enterprise Florida, a public-private partnership. “We are right in the center of the hemisphere,” he notes. “Our 15 deep-water ports are often the first inbound and last outbound call. Over the last four years, the state has invested more than $700 million in the port system.”
Indian River County is on Florida’s central east coast, one hour north of West Palm Beach and one and half hours southeast of Orlando. “I-95 runs right through Vero Beach,” notes Helene Caseltine, Economic Development director of the Indian River County Chamber of Commerce. “Several industrial areas adjacent to I-95 make distribution easy. We are within three hours of 90 percent of Florida’s population.”
The county’s jobs program provides grants of between $3,000 and $7,000 per job created. The county and its three largest municipalities have real estate tax abatement programs for new or expanded facilities.
Local incentives were important to Aluma’s decision to stay in Indian River County. “Local government officials have come to visit and to help us with tax benefits,” says Ledford. She expects Aluma to benefit from employment incentives and to enjoy 10 years of tax relief at its new facility.
The new plant will also allow the company to benefit from a state capital investment tax credit. “We have not used state incentives yet,” says Ledford, “but we expect to get the tax credit this year.”
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