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Can’t Say It’s Not Producing: Flagler’s Economic Arm Lands 4th Firm in 11 Months

| May 1, 2013

Come on in. It's Gioia. (Gioia Sails)

Come on in. It’s Gioia. (Gioia Sails)

You could tell from Barbara Revels’s prefatory smile as she was starting this morning’s Flagler County Economic Development Council meeting that she had good news–the best sort of news, as far as the council she chairs is concerned: yet another company was moving to the county.

Yet another, because now that it’s the fourth company in 11 months to call Flagler County home, it’s not an exaggeration to  say that the county’s relatively new economic development arm is on a streak, and that it’s been instrumental in creating in each case net new and well-paying jobs–not retaining existing ones. (The council did not, for example, take credit for Sea Ray’s decision to consolidate some boat manufacturing operations in Palm Coast.) In that regard, the county’s development arm, under the executive leadership of Helga van Eckert, has done more in 11 months than its ill-fated predecessor–Enterprise Flagler, a private-public partnership–managed to do in five years.

Revels, who is also a county commissioner, introduced Monday morning gioia-sails“our newest business to the community”: Gioia Sails South, which will leave St. Augustine for Palm Coast, bringing 30 jobs and adding 10 in the next year, according to its founder and CEO, Don Gioia. The family-owned company was started in new Jersey, where it also operates.

Founded 46 years ago, Gioia, a manufacturer of yach, boat and ship upholstery, enclosures, cushions and similar-type accessories, has been supplying Sea Ray for 10 years. Gioia Sails has decades of experience manufacturing marine components for yacht makers like Regal, and The Luhrs Marine Group as well. The plan for the Flagler County facility includes expanding its operation to produce awnings and provide re-upholstering services.

“Sea Ray actually brought us to the area,” Gioia said this morning. “We were in St. Augustine, and we needed to come closer to that, OK, to make it more economical for us, so now we met Helga and Mick [Cuthbertson] and they really helped us with the economic development stuff. They got us a place in Hargrove Grade, and everything is wonderful.” Cuthbertson is Bunnell’s economic development point man. Palm Coast’s Beau Falgout was also instrumental in securing the arrangement.

“That is a great example of the county getting it started, working with the city of Bunnell, working with the city of Palm Coast, and voila, we have a company getting ready to crank up,” Revels said.

Gioia, who invited anyone to visit the existing building the company acquired at 5 Hargrove Grade and that’s being renovated on Hargrove Grade, was especially complimentary of the swiftness of permitting. “I’m not used to that,” he said. “I’m used to being beat on the head, and what is this going to cost.” He decided to move the operation to Hargrove Grade instead of build on a piece of property he’s owned in Bunnell for 15 years. “And we’re going to grow. We’re going to grow,” Gioia said. “New ideas, young people, not just me.”

Van Eckert said the company is a perfect match for Flagler County, describing it as “a great addition to our manufacturing base.”

Pat Moynihan, Vice President of Gioia Sails South, said in a county news release: “Our five year plan for the company is to expand our boating industry services and customer base throughout Florida as well as gain a stronger presence in customization and reupholstering throughout the country.”

“We are excited about this firm’s decision to invest in Palm Coast,” Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts said.”We will help to ensure smooth sailing from their previous location.”

The county’s streak: Designs For Health, a health supplement company located an operation in Flagler County last year and now has 17 employees. WP Rawl, a vegetable growing, shipping and processing company followed shortly thereafter and is constructing a 34,000 square foot processing facility in west Flagler County. In February, Coastal Cloud LLC., an internet technology company opened its doors with a ceremony attend by Florida Governor Rick Scott.

Not so coincidentally, the county’s unemployment rate has been declining steadily, falling below double-digits (to 9.5 percent) for the first time in five years.

“We are proud of the progress we have been able to make in economic development in Flagler County in the past year,” County Administrator Craig Coffey said. “Flagler County is being recognized as open for business and that will help hold down the tax rate for our residents.”

After the announcement this morning, Revels made sure to include Falout and Palm Coast City Council member Jason DeLorenzo, who were in the audience, to join the group photo after the announcement. She promised she’d be visiting the Hargrove Grade facility.

“I’ve been making my own covers for my own boat,” Revels said, “so I need to see how it’s really done.”

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11 Responses for “Can’t Say It’s Not Producing: Flagler’s Economic Arm Lands 4th Firm in 11 Months”

  1. confidential says:

    Congratulations to Helga Van Eckert and Beau Falgout!
    Helga, you need to invite more investor businesses from New Jersey to move and settle in Flagler County because they like we, didn’t know until 1990, we can own a business here and after office hours go to the beach or board our boats in the backyard and go fishing, or go play tennis or golf or bicycling or run and compete in 5K races for physical fittnes all around town and do not forget the beach in summer. We have here some business paradise to enhance our quality of life for the sake of some happy and active longevity. My friends from MD tell me all the time how less expensive all is here and the fresh seafood and sushi they enjoy in Palm Coast that can’t be found so fresh anymore around DC. No state income tax and free launching ramps and gorgeous parks all around us, as well as free gorgeous beach access for all. I remember while living in Jersey there was not free beach access all privatized, had to go to a state park and make the long lines on weekends to access and (better start very early or will find the sign Park Full,) after paying a no so cheap fee, to enjoy a day on the beach with the kids. So lets enjoy and appreciate Florida and promote it as well. As we all know if not enough good for some, I-95 runs North too.

  2. Flagler Beach Taxpayer says:

    I had these guys make a cover for my classic 1960 fiberglass boat. Real nice people that do wonderful work. I trailered my boat all the way up to their St. Augustine location expecting to leave it there to have a cover made. They sent me back home with it and later sent an employee to my home to measure for a new cover. He came back a few days later with my new cover and it fit better than a surgeon’s glove.

  3. Joe says:

    Where are the job openings going to be advertised, I haven’t seen any in any paper anywhere?

  4. John Boy says:

    This was only a matter of time, Mainship and Luhrs closed the St. Augustine factory and move all operations to New Jersey and subsequently ceased total operations. No business left in St. Augustine, so the move to the next closet city with boat building was Palm Coast The politicians take credit when ever then have the opportunity simply to feather their nests and to justify their existence.Not one word about the fact that salaries are low and benefits are non existent plus now the 39 workers from St. Augustine now incur commuting expenses.

  5. Stevie says:

    “Sea Ray actually brought us to the area,” Gioia said this morning. “We were in St. Augustine, and we needed to come closer to that, OK, to make it more economical for us, so now we met Helga and Mick [Cuthbertson] and they really helped us with the economic development stuff.”

    You can’t say the Economic Development Council had anything to do with the move other than just do their job. If the government wants more business in Flagler they should cut their budgets and their taxes in half. Then you wouldn’t need to spend extra for an economic council to do the job of the Chamber of Commerce.

    • Anonymous says:

      Under 20 jobs and you think that’s good. Really? That does not even put a dent in the unemployment numbers. How about hundreds. Wake up and look around people. This city is turning into a dump. We have people living in the woods who have lost their homes and jobs. Also the druggies from Daytona and other areas are moving into this county.

    • Jay says:

      The Flagler County Chamber of Commerce is irrelevant. They’re limping along with a bleeding membership base and their financial stability as a company is in peril. Their graphic designer resigned and their entire sales staff was outsourced. Who would want a company like that responsible for Economic Development? I think a board member was quoted recently saying “a rising tide lifts all boats”. I say to current staff and Chamber members, abandon ship!

  6. confidential says:

    Stevie We have to give credit were credit is due to Elga Van Eckert and Beau Falgout this time. As Gioia could have chosen to settle closest to the Airport in Daytona Beach or Ormond.
    Regarding the job (good..? on the eye of the beholder) done or may do by the Chamber of Commerce…in the past and present …is just a real Mirage! They do not even keep up with the membership, but instead keep loosing members and you suggest them to be handed again our taxes for Economic Development? Hello?

  7. Jerry M says:

    They have been trying to move to Flagler County for the last five years. They actually owned property on Highway 100. Their St. Augustine landlord increased the rent and would not agree to any capital improvements that’s why they moved here?

    Designs for health has been located in Flagler County for almost 2 years why is this department getting credit for it? She had nothing to do with it?

    The cloud computing company has been living in fire County for the last 10 years

    This department is just like in Enterprise Flagler; worthless and trying to take claim for everything. The only big difference is now we spend five times the money we did with Enterprise Flagler and Helga makes $110,000 year.

    FlaglerLive where is the investigative journalism; used to be a lot better with enterprise Flagler and they try to put this bull crap out.

  8. Stevie says:

    “We have to give credit were credit is due” I credit the owners of the business for making a good business decision. The county merely did it’s job. If you guys want to puff them up into something exceptional when they aren’t. that’s your bag baby and it stinks.

  9. Alfred E. Newman says:

    I guess that the complaints over Helga Van Eckert’s salary are going to quiet down now.

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