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Economic incentive helped Sun Hydraulics consolidate operations in Bradenton-Sarasota

Economic incentives paid by Manatee County helped Sun Hydraulics consolidate its operations in Bradenton-Sarasota.
Economic incentives paid by Manatee County helped Sun Hydraulics consolidate its operations in Bradenton-Sarasota. jajones1@bradenton.com

Sun Hydraulics, with the aid of $190,382 in economic incentives from Manatee County, completed a $21 million expansion project in 2013 at 803 Tallevast Road, and consolidated its operations locally after closing a plant in Kansas.

The company constructed a 75,000-square-foot, ultra-modern office and manufacturing building.

Moving beyond the gleaming front office is an impressive high-tech manufacturing facility with robots, and skilled workers quietly going about their business.

Communities covet high-tech companies like Sun Hydraulics, which pays above-average wages and helps broaden the economic base. In Manatee County, that means relieving the dependance on long-time stalwarts tourism and agriculture.

No wonder that Manatee County was interested in helping home-grown Sun Hydraulics, which has a global workforce of about 900. About 700 of those jobs are in the Bradenton-Sarasota area.

“The company has completed the five-year incentives agreement with Manatee County, during which time $123,000 was paid in incentives for 123 jobs with average wage of near $48,000,” Karen Stewart, Manatee County’s economic development program manager, told the Herald in an email.

“In addition, the company received a customized performance-based incentive in the amount of $35,420 after the 75,000-square-foot building was completed and $31,962 for the Transportation Impact Fee Incentive,” Stewart wrote.

In large measure, the staff at Sun Hydraulics operates without bosses, titles or walls. The corporate culture set down by company founder Bob Koski in 1970 emphasizes the importance of each member of the staff, whether in engineering, manufacturing, marketing, administration or other position.

Excellent health benefits, above average wages, a nurse practitioner, a masseuse on staff, and someone to heat lunches for employees make Sun Hydraulics a unique place to work.

“It’s a very fun and exciting operation where anyone can make a suggestion. You have value based on your contributions,” said David Lamb, a University of South Florida graduate who started off as a certified public accountant, worked in manufacturing, and is now in investor relations. Not that you would know that by looking at his business card, which has his name and contact information, but no title.

“Sun Hydraulics is very committed to this region. Company founder Bob Koski had every intention of staying here,” Lamb said.

Although Sun Hydraulics was approved for an economic development incentive of $396,420, and a total transportation impact fee incentive of $36,378, it did not choose to take advantage of the full package.

The reason? Economic headwinds and challenges in the economy.

“The only incentives actually received were the ones earned,” Lamb said. “From our perspective, the economic environment remains uncertain. With economic indicators signifying little trend movement either positive or negative, we recognize that we cannot control macroeconomic issues.

“Despite the sluggish environment, we continue to focus on what we can control,” he added.

That would include advancements in lean manufacturing technology and process automation, investments in human capital, actively recruiting application and product engineers in major regions around the globe, intensifying emphasis on target accounts, meeting with trendsetters in machine design, and investigating new and existing geographic regions where Sun can grow sales.

Sun Hydraulics designs and manufactures high-performance screw-in hydraulic cartridge valves and manifolds used in a variety of applications, including forestry equipment, oil and natural gas exploration, mining, earth-moving machinery, military vehicles and more, said Steve Berlin, who works in marketing for the company.

Expansion plans

Sun Hydraulics began preparing for expansion as far back as 1996 when it started acquiring property adjacent to its Tallevast Road location. Next to its location at 803 Tallevast Road, Sun has another manufacturing facility at 701 Tallevast Road, and a third location at 1500 West University Parkway.

The company’s corporate hub is at the University Parkway location, but most of that building is also used for manufacturing.

Expansion plans proceeded cautiously with “toll gates,” where expansion could be halted or delayed at any step along the way, Lamb said.

The expansion on Tallevast Road assisted the company in closing its operation in Lenexa, Kansas, in 2013 and consolidating all of its manifold activities in Bradenton-Sarasota.

Previously, the company built its cartridge valves in in Bradenton-Sarasota, then shipped them to Kansas to be assembled with the manifolds.

Having manufacturing and assembly in one location made for a more efficient operation, Lamb said.

The new building has allowed Sun Hydraulics to alleviate a space crunch, try new things, improve processes and product flow, and reduce costs and lead times.

It also positioned the company to be better prepared for the next economic upswing.

“Sun strives to grow both our top and bottom lines thereby adding value to shareholders,” Lamb said. “We do this by providing quality products combined with premium service. We focus on long-term profitable growth to make decisions, not attempting to satisfy short-term investors.”

Today, the company sells its products worldwide, including the Americas, Europe and the Mideast, and the Asia-Pacific area.

James A. Jones Jr.: 941-745-7053, @jajones1

INCENTIVES AT A GLANCE: Sun Hydraulics

Location: 803 Tallevast Road

Incentive money received: $190,382

Projected job growth: 123

Projected average wage: $48,000

Projected capital investment: $21 million

Current employment: 900

Source: Manatee County Economic Development Program and Sun Hydraulics

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