SOURCE: THE VILLAGES DAILY SUN | SUNDAY, APRIL 23, 2017 | A21-A22
Sumter Businesses Growing
Across Many Industries
By PATRICIA STEELE Daily Sun Senior Writer
Crevalle Boats, Kottke Trucking and Speedling Inc. are among the companies expanding and adding jobs.
When Nick Engels tears out a wall to create more workspace for his business, he is also increasing production, adding more jobs and boosting the economy of Sumter County.
His boat-manufacturing business, Crevalle Boats, is in the midst of expanding its facility, which will result in more boats produced. Engels” boatline is sold by distributors in the Southeastern United States and along the Atlantic Coast as far north as Maryland. Crevalle is just one business in Sumter County that is growing. Numerous businesses across multiple industries are expanding services, staff and facilities.
“This is an exciting time to be in Sumter County,” said Jada Glover, Sumter County’s economic development professional. “I love working to bring new businesses to the area, but it’s also great to see existing businesses expand.”
The Sumter County Economic Development office concentrates primarily on agriculture, manufacturing and distribution under the leadership of county administrator Bradley Arnold. It also monitors retail, health and service industries.
“Sumter County businesses, across all categories, are growing and adding jobs,” Arnold said. “Ultimately, this growth creates a strong economy.”
A great deal of the business expansion in the county is tied to growth throughout the country, not just what’s happening in Sumter, or even in Florida, he said.
The growth of the county, specifically in The Villages, has a major impact on multiple industries, including healthcare and construction, but many of Sumter’s businesses reach outside state lines.
“The economy is picking up across the country, and that affects many of our industrial businesses,” Arnold said.
Arnold named several businesses that reach customers well beyond Florida, including Cal-Maine Foods near Bushnell and Robbins Manufacturing near Tarrytown.
Plant nurseries, landscaping businesses, manufacturing firms and transportation companies are just some of the growing industries in Sumter County. Three examples of these broadening companies are Kottke Trucking, Crevalle Boats and Speedling Inc.
The Kottke family was drawn to rural Sumter County when they first considered purchasing the former Walbon Trucking Co. in Wildwood last year.
The family-owned trucking company has provided transportation services for businesses since 1938. The company was founded in Minnesota, but it has several locations across the Midwest, South and Southeast.
“We have drivers taking products to Florida regularly from Minnesota, so it made sense to have a presence in Florida” general manager and co-owner Kyle Kottke said.
Since taking over the Wildwood business in July 2016, Kottke has increased the number of mechanics from three to four, hired a person to work in the front office and added 10 additional drivers, bringing the total number of drivers to 50.
“If the growth continues at this pace, I see adding more drivers in the near future,” Kottke said.
He said the Wildwood location is perfect for a transportation company.
“With Interstate 75, State Road 44 and the Florida Turnpike, we are close to everything in Florida’ Kottke said. “And it’s been a pleasure to work with the county.”
When moving to a new area, business owners never know how their company will fit in, Kottke said.
“It’s a pleasure to be apart of this community,” he said.
Tuesday was another day of planting and shipping at Speedling Nursery in Bushnell, one of its parent company, Speedling Inc.’s, eight facilities across the U.S.
Wilma Rutherford filled compartmented trays with soil, and one celery seed was placed in each compartment. The filled trays then were placed in greenhouses and will be monitored daily until being shipped to growers.
Speedling sells millions of seedlings each year. Last year, the Bushnell facility produced 70 million celery plants for a large farm in South Florida.
Ron Delbridge, grower manager for the nursery, said the company plans to expand production in Bushnell with the addition of 5 or 6 acres of new greenhouses.
“Ideally, we would like to start building in 2018, but we’re still in the planning stages,” Delbridge said. “There’s a lot to decide when you’re looking at the design element of the process.”
Because agriculture is always changing, Speedling Inc.’s leaders are constantly looking for the next trend or the next niche market they can capture, Delbridge said.
“We’ve changed to keep up with the market since the company started in Sumter County in 1985,” said John Guarino, nursery manager. “Most of the small, family owned farms have dropped away, and we’re selling to mostly large companies with thousands of acres in production.”
He said operating a business in Sumter County is a positive experience.
“We’ve had great support from Jada Glover with the county’s economic development,” Guarino said. “The county has a very positive attitude toward businesses, especially agriculture. That doesn’t happen everywhere.”
Nick Engels, president of Crevalle Boats, is proud of the path his company has taken since its inception in 2013.
“We knew where we wanted to be, and we’re right on target,” Engels said. “This expansion doubles our space. We’re taking over the building next door”
The additional space allows Engels to build more of his 24- and 26-foot bay boats to meet the added demand.
Additionally, Engels plans to add a 30-foot, twin-engine boat to the company’s inventory.
“We’ll also be adding about eight more jobs,” said Mike Hankins, production manager. One issue the company faces is finding employees with the right skills. At least half of
Crevalle’s staff has been with the company since day No. 1, and most increases in staff are because of increased sales.
“We are working with Lake Tech (Lake Technical Institute in Eustis) with the possibility to create a class specific to boat building,” Hankins said. “Right now we look for people who have auto body repair experience or experience in
All Crevalle Boats are sold through dealers. The nearest dealer is Apopka Marine in Inverness.
The company’s goal is to continue its controlled growth and expansion to meet the market demands without exceeding the company’s capacity to provide a quality product on time.
“We are right on target,” said Chad Jaros, director of sales and marketing for Crevalle. “We’re experiencing slow and steady growth, and we are increasing our market.”
Patricia Steele is a senior writer with The Villages Daily Sun. She can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 9029, or firstname.lastname@example.org.