Air Products prepares to hire as plant construction continues

Herald CorrespondentMarch 29, 2013 

MANATEE -- Driving along U.S. 41 past Port Manatee it is impossible to miss the huge concrete structure rising out of the ground.

Air Products and Chemicals is in the midst of constructing five buildings on 32 acres of former Piney Point property near Port Manatee and has begun hiring for key staff positions.

The manufacturing complex includes an estimated 300,000 square feet of building space with an office, three manufacturing/warehouse facilities and a finishing plant.

"The pace is on target for the start of operations in 2014," said company spokesman Art George.

The office building is up and the interior is being finished. The four other buildings, which will handle the manufacturing of coil wound heat exchangers to liquefy natural gas, are in various stages of completion, George said.

The technology used by Air Products accesses natural gas in remote locations and liquefies it, making it possible to be moved by pipeline into shipping tankers and then shipped around the world.

Although about 120 construction jobs were announced for the project, building permits show the contractors being used are from out of the area.

Clayco Construction Co. from St. Louis, Mo. is the main contractor and a fencing company from Orlando and a plumbing company from Indian Rocks Beach also are involved.

About 250 employees

will be hired for the new facility and interviewing has already started for key staff positions, George said. Other manufacturing positions are expected to be hired in the fall.

Air Products purchased the property for nearly $6 milion in July 2012 from HRK Holdings, a former phosphate facility designed to house material from Port Manatee's Berth 12 dredging project.

George said he could not release the cost of the project but a check of building permits issued to the company by Manatee County since September 2012 show a declared value of more than $25.5 million.

Air Products received $1.75 million in performance based incentives from the state and $625,000 from Manatee County. The company also received $46,876 in transportation impact fees.

In November, the company purchased spoil from previous dredging projects from Port Manatee to use in filling in the property in preparation for the building foundations.

The Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp. along with Suncoast Workforce, Career Edge, Manatee Technical Institute and the Sarasota Area Manufacturers Association have developed a training program to help local workers get the skills they need to apply for manufacturing positions at Air Products, said Peter Straw with SAMA.

"This is a great example of how the community has comes together to attract an employer to this area," Straw said. Some of the positions require high level welding skills, he said.

"People who have certain manufacturing backgrounds will go through specific training so that they can then apply for those jobs," he said.

Having Air Products here improves the local manufacturing industry, Straw said.

"It is always good to have a diverse manufacturing base and this is a whole new player in a different sector," he said.By

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