A Holmes Beach-based home mechanical contractor expanding into downtown Bradenton next year expects to generate jobs and buzz in the city's reinvigorated warehouse district.
Air and Energy purchased a 2-acre site and almost 19,000 square feet of warehouse space at 715 6th St. W. for $639,000 in May. The company, which offers electrical, plumbing, air conditioning and home automation installation and repair services, will use the space as its headquarters and to expand its reach throughout Manatee County into central Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, Palmetto and Ruskin.
The company will retain its current 8,000-square-foot Holmes Beach location as a service center for its customers in Holmes Beach, Longboat Key and nearby islands.
Company vice president Stewart Moon Jr. said Air
and Energy has kept the move quiet since May because it is still about 10 months out from the expansion. He does not yet know how many additional employees will be hired, but noted that Air and Energy has been adding three to four employees annually for the past few years.
The company would have expanded at Holmes Beach if it could have found the real estate it needed.
"There's nowhere to purchase warehouse space, so we had to go to Bradenton," Moon said.
Moon, who co-owns Air and Energy with his mother and company CEO Trudy Moon, said the move will give his company much needed storage and distribution space and room for future growth. The Bradenton site will also be a dispatch location for its repair and installation business near to expanding markets.
"Bradenton is at the north, south, east and west for dispatching," Moon said. "We'll be able to deliver quick service to our customers."
When the company finishes the property renovation, it will include office space and training facilities for current and future employees.
Air and Energy will continue to lease the smaller of two buildings on the property to Foremost Fence.
Dave Gustafson, the executive director of the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority, said he has spoken with the Moons about financial incentives over the past few months. Neither the city nor the authority have committed to any assistance. Moon said it is unclear whether his company will qualify for redevelopment funds.
Gustafson said Air and Energy's new facility will continue a redevelopment trend in the warehouse district that is bringing new uses to older commercial and light industrial buildings. Recent moves into the district include Planet Stone Marble and Granite and three microbreweries.
Gustafson said his agency regularly gives tours of available buildings in the district to warehousing, contracting and other commercial companies.
The responses are generally enthusiastic.
"They say 'We want to be part of this,' " Gustafson said.
Roughly bounded by Manatee Avenue to the north, First and Ninth streets to the east and west and McKechnie Field to the south, the meandering district features a mix of older commercial and industrial properties, office buildings, churches and homes.
Ken Clanton, the listing real estate agent on the Air and Energy deal, said the area has a high vacancy rate, which means good deals can be had.
Buying into the district has its risks as well. If redevelopment falters, he said, empty properties could become part of a self-perpetuating cycle of decline in downtown Bradenton.
Clanton said Air and Energy is the sort of company he likes to see in the warehouse district.
"I assume they're going to upgrade the quality of the build," he said.
Clanton, who works for Bradenton-based Wagner Realty, closed the deal with Wagner colleague David Moynihan. Moynihan represented Air and Energy in the transaction.
When Air and Energy opens its new facility, it will push to expand all its products, and particularly its home automation systems. The company does little installation work for homebuilders; it serves homeowners directly.
Moon said moving into Bradenton will also give his company more opportunities to be involved in community groups such as youth sports, island community center, Manatee Community Foundation and the Manatee Chamber of Commerce.
"We live here, we work here, we play here," he said. "We want to be the company that grows here."
Employees at the new facility will have access to an onsite workout facility and bicycles for riding to downtown eating and shopping destinations.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.