MANATEE -- Sean Dotson expects great things from his company, RND Automation & Engineering, in the year ahead.
The president of the north Sarasota manufacturing company, which designs, manufactures and retrofits custom automation and material handling machinery, predicts it will be a year to be remembered.
"I expect it will be a banner year for us," he said. "We are continuing to see people who can't find skilled workers but who still need to increase production."
In some ways, a skilled labor shortage has turned into good news for Dotson.
"Companies are more and more coming to us and wanting to know how to make their operations more effective and more efficient," he said.
Dotson is one of a number of manufacturers locally who expect to see an upturn in their business for 2013. Even though uncertainty over the new health care law and still struggling economy are causing some businesses to be wary, manufacturing appears to be headed in a positive direction locally, statewide and nationally.
According to the National Association of Manufacturers, 93 percent of the state's exported goods are produced by Florida's 12,862 manufacturing firms. These firms employ 311,200 workers across the state, with 14.2 percent supported by exporting revenue alone. Florida manufactured goods exports have grown 142.6 percent since 2000, ahead of the national average at 80.1 percent.
Peter Straw, executive director of the Sarasota Area Manufacturers Association, said he expects a better year for the industry.
"In early 2012, government leaders finally realized the facts and actually stated publicly that manufacturing will be the economic driver to pull our country out of the recession," he said.
Recognition that manufacturers are wealth creators who produce quality careers inspire policy makers to create incentives to stimulate manufacturing growth, Straw said.
One example was Gov. Rick Scott's announcement last week that he will back an initiative this legislative session to do away with the sales tax on manufacturing equipment.
The idea was praised by a variety of business groups statewide as a way to spur business growth.
"Manufacturers poised to expand operations will be able to leverage such incentives to be more cost effective," Straw said.
Manufacturers who are small to mid-size in niche markets will do well, he predicted.
RND Automation is an example. The company, with eight full-time employees and one part-timeworker, is expected to grow its revenues by 30 to 50 percent in 2013.
The company is hiring for three positions and is looking for a new building to double the size of its 6,000-square-foot facility in Northgate Business Park.
The company recently bought out one of its vendors, Bay Tool, and moved the machine shop operation in-house, as well as hiring two of the company's machinists.
"That will definitely be a cost savings for us," Dotson said.
Another area manufacturer expecting double digit growth in 2013 is Exactech, a company based in Gainesville that develops and manufacturers orthopaedic implant devices such as shoulder, hip, knee and spine replacement parts.
The company employs 400 to 500, with 26 in Manatee. Out of the 26, four are new hires, and Jamie Weger, manager of instrument operations, says a few more will probably be added later this year.
"Medical companies continue to be a strong sector," he said.
The company expects a double digit increase in revenues in 2013, Weger said, with the 2012 revenues hitting $1.25 billion.
"The company continues to broaden its product lines by developing and launching new products," he said.
Another aspect of growth for manufacturing in 2013 is "re-shoring" as manufacturers bring production back to the United States, Straw said.
Increased cost of labor and transportation of goods from China, worries about the protection of intellectual property and improvements in American manufacturing are all reasons more manufacturing here will grow, he said.