In their 24 years in the commercial glazing business, Greg and Sheril Burkhart have found success grows more success.
But what it doesn't grow are bigger buildings when success brings a lot of business into a small workshop.
For the past few years, the Burkharts' business, Key Glass, has been bursting with a full shop of work, bustling offices and stacks of inventory. Known for the windows and other glazing they have installed at The Mall at University Town Center, IMG Academy, Sarasota Memorial Hospital and scores of other commercial and public buildings in Sarasota and Manatee counties, the company is seeing so much demand for its product that it is almost out of room to make it.
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By the end of the year, Key Glass will build about 17,000 square feet of warehouse and shop space onto its main production and office facility at 2312 58th Ave. E. Expected to cost about $1.5 million, the new construction is intended to speed production and get all of the company's storage under one roof.
Greg Burkhart, the company's president, said the addition is an efficiency measure. Right now, the company is spread between two buildings facing each other across 58th Avenue. Moving glass, aluminum framing and other material between the two is creating a production bottleneck.
"We just don't have enough space," he said.
Fortunately, the company purchased an extra acre behind its shop in 2001 with the intention of building a bigger shop. The Great Recession convinced the Burkharts to shelve those plans. Now, the land is in the perfect place for an addition.
Key Glass applied with Manatee County last week for a development permit for its new warehouse and shop. Burkhart said he plans to apply for a building permit in the next few weeks.
The addition will house the company's workshop, as well as storage for all the components for the windows and other glazing projects they build. Front office operations will expand inside the company's existing 9,400-square-foot main building once production moves into the new space.
Last year and the start of 2016 have been busy for $12-million company. CNC cutting machines, metal cutters, drill presses and other equipment whine and buzz through the day shift as shop employees prepare framing and glass to go into the field.
Current projects include glazing at the University of Tampa's new fitness center, for a new rehab center at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, and in an academic building at IMG Academy. Key will also glass in a new air traffic control tower under construction at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.
At the same time, Key Glass is adding more room to its operation, it is looking for more glazers. A large share of the company's 40 employees do the installation work at construction sites. Sheril Burkhart, Key's vice president and chief financial officer, said these are difficult positions to fill, as local technical and trade schools do not teach commercial glazing installation.
Many of Key's employees have come to the business in their early 30s after working in other fields or going to school for a different trade. They learn on the job as they install slabs of glass and custom-cut metal framing.
"We're trying to groom young men for a career," Sheril Burkhart said.
The company has plans to add five full-time positions to its payroll this year.
The Burkharts have come a long way from when they started in 1992. Back then, it was just the two of them working out of their home and driving to job sites in the one work truck they owned. They acknowledge those beginnings every day: The business phone number for Key Glass is their old home phone number.
The company is expected to remain a family affair. Their 35-year-old son, Justin, works for the company and will one day head it.
The company has expanded its geographic reach this year. It is on the job at Florida Southwestern College in Fort Myers and is taking from work around the state. The bulk of the company's customers are in Manatee and Sarasota counties and the Tampa area.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027 or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.