When Russell Hann was looking around in 2009 to move his boat manufacturing business out of Dade County, the Bradenton-Sarasota area stood out.
At that time, the Great Recession had taken hold, prompting several boat builders already in Manatee County to downsize or look for cheaper places to do business. Unlike them, Hann, whose company built just four large boats that year, was looking to expand. The job cuts by big area builders, including Wellcraft, guaranteed that he'd have no trouble finding experienced boat industry workers.
Dade County just didn't have the trained manpower.
"The workforce was better here," he said.
“Incentivized” is a new weekly feature in the Bradenton Herald that looks at local companies that have received public incentive money and how that assistance paid off in terms of job creation.
But something else attracted him to Manatee County. An incentive program that was brand new at the time promised to pay his business for 90 jobs he thought the relocation might create. On top of that, economic development officials wanted to help him find a place to set up shop and rush through any permitting he might need to build the facilities needed to produce the Hann Powerboats line of recreational and military watercraft.
The county contracted with Hann to pay just more than $1,300 for every new job the company created and maintained over five years. During its first year in the county, Hann hired 11 workers and received $10,000.
Hann is one of several boat builders to receive incentives since 2010. Others include Roscioli International, JRL Ventures and Metcon Aluminum Boats.
Today, Hann Powerboats is working out of its second production facility in Manatee County. It built 118 fiberglass and aluminum boats last year in its 18,000-square-foot facility in a Whitfield-area warehouse.
Even so, its employment numbers haven't grown as much as Hann projected. His initial workforce numbered seven. Now it's 14.
Although Hann has had more employees working at times, the up-and-down nature of the boat business requires cycles of hiring and layoffs. Part of the volatility comes from the military contracts Hann has with the Department of Defense to build small, aluminum patrol boats. The company is building up its pleasure boat business in hopes of making the year-round workload more consistent.
The company has not tapped into its potential incentive money since 2010 because of its inconsistent employment numbers. But, Hann said, that doesn't bother him. He said the overall support and assistance his business has gotten from Manatee County has been at least as important.
"It's the feeling like they really want you here," he said.
Incentives at a glance: Hann Powerboats
Location: 6620 19th St. E., Bradenton
Incentive approved: 2010
Incentive amount: $118,000
Projected job growth: 70
Projected average wage: $55,000
Projected capital investment: $750,000
Incentives paid: $10,000
Starting employment: 7
Current employment: 14
Actual capital investment: $1.23 million
Source: Hann Powerboats