RND move means more hiring

mjohnson@bradenton.comJanuary 9, 2014 

MANATEE -- When it moves into its new Manatee County manufacturing space in February, RND Automation & Engineering will be setting up to grow its workforce with its expanding business.

The company, which designs and builds custom automation machines for clients in manufacturing, aerospace, and med-tech sectors, is moving into 12,000 square feet in the new SRQ Commerce Park at 7910 25th Court E. Company President Sean Dotson said the move will approximately double RND's workspace, and will make room for additional hires in the coming years.

"We'll actually be able to move around our shop without bumping into each other," Dotson said.

The 12.5-employee company added four workers to its staff in the last year, and has plans to add one or two more in 2014. Under an incentive deal with Manatee County, RND is approved to receive up to $8,000 in performance incentives if it adds eight employees over

the next five years. To get the cash, RND must pay each of those employees at least $40,987 a year, or 15 percent more than the annual average wage in Manatee County.

The company employs engineers and machinists.

RND has needed the extra space for about a year. In late 2012, the company purchased machinery and other assets belonging to Baytool, Inc., a Bradenton machine shop. Baytool closed its operations after doing machining work for RND for several years.

In addition to buying Baytool's assets, RND hired two of its former employees. All the machines and the extra employees left RND cramped in its current, 6,000-square-foot space on Independence Blvd. in Sarasota.

Economic development agencies in both Sarasota and Manatee counties assisted RND in its search for lease space, said Sharon Hillstrom, president and CEO of the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation.

While Sarasota County loses RND, Hillstrom said having both EDCs work on the relocation kept the company and its jobs local.

Dotson predicts continued growth at his $3 million company. He said RND is just one of two companies in Florida that design and build custom automation machines. Its aim with the new space is to capture all the work that comes RND's way

"There's certainly not less need," he said. "We have turned down projects in the last year or so."

The company's products vary widely, from medical device packaging machines to robotic assembly work cells. RND is currently working on a machine that tests recycled medical devices, then adds new parts to the devices as needed.

Shops like RND comprise the majority of what the Association for Advanced Automation terms "automation integrators." Bob Doyle, communications director for the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based industry group, said shops with 50 employees or fewer are the most common in the industry.

Doyle said the industry is expanding, but qualified employees are getting more difficult to find. Engineers and machinists in the automation field can command good wages, he said, since they are in demand.

Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.

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