MILTON, Florida – While driving around Santa Rosa County looking for an industrial site suited for relocation and expansion of his business, a local boat manufacturer noticed a large “Florida First Sites” sign and wondered what it was. But once he took a closer look, Chris Fabbro knew he found his new home.
“We had no idea when we came across it what it was, but we decided to look at the property and glad we found it,” said Fabbro, president of Fabbro Marine. “We were looking to expand our growing business. We live here, we love it here, and we intend to stay here.”
Fabbro Marine, a local manufacturer of world-renowned Cape Horn offshore boats, broke ground Wednesday on their new facility at Santa Rosa Industrial Park East, in Milton, just two miles from his current location. The boat maker is the first company to build on the Santa Rosa certified site, and the first to build on one of Gulf Power’s Florida First Sites.
Launched by Gulf Power, Florida First Sites are project-ready industrial sites across the region that have been certified. Each site undergoes a screening process developed by McCallum Sweeney Consulting, which offers an objective, third-party analysis to ensure the they are ready for development.
After 20 years of successful operations in the Santa Rosa Industrial Park, Fabbro Marine had outgrown its current facility. With options to either move operations —and jobs —outside the area, or find a larger property in Santa Rosa County, they found the perfect fit with one of the Florida First Sites.
“Once we found out about the program with the help of the county’s Economic Development Office, we were all in,” added Fabbro. “We hope by being the first industry to build on one of the certified sites, it will attract new business to do the same.”
Fabbro Marine will relocate to the Santa Rosa Industrial Park East on 20 acres, which includes 10 additional acres for future expansion. Construction of the 78,000-square-foot facility — a combined investment of $4 million — will begin soon with completion expected in January 2017. The company, currently employing 30 technicians with wages of 115 percent of the local area, expects to hire 10 additional workers within the next three years.
Stan Connally, president and CEO of Gulf Power, said the community is excited to welcome Fabbro Marine to its new home, and hopes the boat manufacturer will be able to show other businesses the advantages of doing business in northwest Florida.
“Florida First Sites has allowed northwest Florida to be a more competitive player in site selection decisions,” said Connally. “The occupation of this first site by Fabbro Marine will hopefully put this area on the map and attract more out-of-state business. Today, we’re not only celebrating new jobs and investment in Santa Rosa County, but also the first success story of this site certification program.”
Currently, there are three industrial parks in Santa Rosa County to receive site certification through Florida First Sites, paving the way for future economic and industrial development. They join additional sites in Crestview, Defuniak Springs, Panama City and Marianna, resulting in nine sites across northwest Florida.
“Each Florida First Site has undergone a rigorous screening process to ensure it is ready for development and all pre-work has been completed,” Shannon Ogletree, director of the county’s economic development office. “This takes the majority of the risk out of the site-selection process. We are pleased to keep Cape Horn boats in Santa Rosa County as the ‘anchor’ in our industrial park and excited about their expansion.”