Incentivized: Clare Controls brings high-paying jobs to Manatee County

Clare Controls grows in Manatee County

Clare Controls projected jobs and wage growth has qualified it for incentive money through Manatee County.
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Clare Controls projected jobs and wage growth has qualified it for incentive money through Manatee County.

Home automation company Clare Controls has grown quickly over the past four years as it has pushed home automation into the realm of the affordable.

Based in a set of warehouse buildings near the north end of the runways at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, the company has hired for some of the highest-paying new jobs, on average, created in the county in the past few years.

Clare Controls is one of the most highly incentivized by Manatee County under its economic development incentives program. Five years after signing up for $248,000 in potential cash from the county, Clare Controls has hired 55 people. The average wage for those jobs is more than $82,145, the third highest wage promised by any of the 60-plus companies the county has contracted with for the incentives.

This year, the company is projected to earn nearly $10 million. Brett Price, Clare Controls founder and president, expects to double that in 2017 as his company fulfills home automation contracts with national new homebuilders including Meritage and D.R. Horton. Its systems are targeted for homes selling in the $300,000 to $750,000 range.

Local customers of Clare Controls include homebuilders Neal Signature Homes and John Cannon Homes.

The company’s income is building after Clare Controls spent the bulk of the past several years doing research and development and writing the software. The company’s products allow users to control their security systems, lighting, thermostats and other home equipment remotely from handheld devices including iPads and smart phones.

Price, who has been in the high-tech business in Manatee County since 1992, said his business is growing on the demand from home buyers who want peace of mind when they’re away. Before the Great Recession, Price was primarily involved in high-dollar automation installations that controlled audio and visual equipment functions. That work, done through his home automation installation company Tempus, ran tens of thousands of dollars per home.

Clare Controls systems, which are geared toward safety, security and comfort, rarely break $1,600. They appeal to a wider consumer audience.

“They want to know when their kids got home,” Price said.

Incentives enticed them

The incentive money was a factor in keeping Price and his company in Manatee County. When he formed Clare Controls, he looked at potential locations in Boca Raton and in Texas. Part of the reason he considered moving was a shortage of trained software developers and high-tech workers in the Manatee-Sarasota area.

So far, according to county documents, Clare Controls was scheduled to be paid $198,330 through this year. Neither Price nor Manatee County officials were able to confirm the amount received .

The money has helped defray some of the expense of nationwide searches for workers, and for training. Now well established and growing in about 35,000 square feet of offices and warehouse space, Clare Controls is actually deriving some benefit from the area’s relatively small high-tech sector: No one is hiring its workers away.

That, Price said, can only help the county’s economic picture.

“This industry is clean and high-paying,” he said. “These are the kinds of jobs Manatee County would like to keep here.”

Clare Controls lost out on some additional incentives it qualified for through the state of Florida. The Department of Economic Opportunity contracted with the company to pay it up to $310,000 for the 62 jobs it planned to create. But the state terminated the incentive agreement in 2014 after the company failed to hire as many people as it projected in 2012. The state paid no money to Clare Controls on the incentives contract.

Price said he plans on keeping his company in Manatee County. Clare Controls recently purchased 2.5 acres of bare land next to its current facility to use for future expansions.

Matt M. Johnson: 941-745-7027, @MattAtBradenton

Incentives at a glance: Clare Controls

Location: 7519 Pennsylvania Ave., Tallevast

Incentive approved: 2011

Incentive amount: $248,000

Projected job growth: 62

Projected average wage: $82,145

Incentives paid: $198,330

Starting employment: About 20

Current employment: About 75

Source: Clare Controls, Manatee County