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Wed, Oct 13, 2010

BRS Takes Military Manufacturing To Florida

Parachute Firm Lands In Pompano Beach

Parachute maker Ballistic Recovery Systems is opening a new plant in Pompano Beach, FL, and plans to hire 500 workers.

The South St. Paul, MN-based firm, which makes parachutes for the military and aviation industry, has leased 124,894 square feet at the Superior Commerce Park, off Powerline Road, according to broker Michael Scarpino of NAI Rauch Weaver Norfleet Kurtz & Co. The lease term is a little more than five years with renewal options, he said.

Ballistic's new plant will make low-cost cargo parachutes for the military. The parachutes are designed to be tossed once they drop off supplies, which can be anything from bullets to bandages. When it reaches full production, the Pompano Beach plant should be cranking out about 30,000 throwaway parachutes a year.

The hiring has already begun. Ballistic CEO Larry Williams said the firm has hired about a 100 so far, and hopes to have the remainder on board by the end of the year. The jobs start at about $9 an hour and include sewers, parachute riggers, packers and cutters, he said.

BRS Larry Williams

Williams said Ballistic would likely need to train most of its new South Florida workers to make and assemble parachutes. "We did quite an extensive [site] search," Williams said. "We needed to be in a large metro area where there is a large workforce." That was the lesson learned from its 208-person plant in Pinebluff, N.C., where the population just wasn't large enough to support expanded production, he said.

Ballistic worked closely with the Broward Alliance, but the average salary of the jobs being created wasn't enough to qualify for job growth incentives, according to David Coddington, VP of business development for the Broward Alliance. He said the alliance was able to work with Workforce One, the city of Pompano Beach and federal manufacturing programs, however, to assist Ballistic with training workers and ramping up its new plant. "What we did was to connect the dots," Coddington said.

BRS Cargo Parachute

And, Ballistic may be just the tip of a trend reversing the decade-long bleeding of manufacturing jobs from South Florida to lower-cost areas.

Coddington said he has had a flurry of inquiries from manufacturers, due, in part, to falling housing prices and industrial rents. "It has again made us competitive with other places around the country," he said.



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