DAYTONA BEACH - "What do you think about this 400,000-square foot building?"
Applause from dozens of area business leaders and elected officials echoed in the cavernous B. Braun distribution center on Thursday as Glenn Ritchey, board member of the CEO Business Alliance, gestured at towering shelves behind him on the gleaming warehouse floor.
Ritchey, a former Daytona Beach mayor known for his car dealerships, managed to slip an automotive reference into his own appraisal of the sparkling new center at 1341 N. Clyde Morris Blvd. The new building and its prospect for job growth were being celebrated with a ceremonial ribbon-cutting and color-coordinated green-and-white balloon drop.
"It looks like a drag strip," Ritchey said, gesturing down one of the long, wide aisles. "I know a lot of quarter-mile races that have been run in less space."
The massive 400,000-square-foot complex, on Clyde Morris roughly a half-mile south of LPGA Boulevard, was built to accommodate increased production at medical products maker B.Braun's recently expanded Daytona Beach manufacturing plant on Mason Avenue. The company has pledged to create at least 175 new jobs in Daytona Beach by Dec. 31, with those jobs paying an average of at least $41,936 a year.
Those two projects represent a capital investment of more than $140 million, with the potential for more B. Braun expansion in the area.
The German company, whose U.S. headquarters are in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday received approval from the Volusia County Council of a 20 percent match of a performance-based economic incentive package for a proposed second manufacturing plant that would be built just east of its existing production facility at 1845 Mason Ave.
The county's portion of the Florida Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund incentive package is $100,000.
B.Braun would receive those incentives only if it makes good on a pledge to create 100 new-to-Florida jobs that pay an average annual salary of more than $45,698, according to the package approved by the County Council. The remaining 80 percent of the incentive package would come from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
At Tuesday's ceremony, Volusia County Council member Deb Denys framed the distribution center's opening as an important step toward moving from potential to reality.
"These are great career opportunities for Volusia County residents," with above average wages and benefits including healthcare, Denys said.
"Today, we have potential," Denys said. "We have possibility, and we have probability."
Denys was among a crowd of dignitaries that also included Volusia County Council member Billie Wheeler; Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry; Daytona Beach City Council member Ruth Trager; Daytona Beach City Manager Jim Chisholm; Consolidated-Tomoka Land Co. CEO John Albright; CEO Business Alliance President Kent Sharples; Brown & Brown Chairman Hyatt Brown; and Nancy Keefer, president and CEO of the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Ritchey announced that Volusia County Council Chair Ed Kelley couldn't attend because he was in a hospital following the placement of a stent in his heart. In the spirit of the occasion, Kelley did send along a cellphone picture of a B. Braun fluid bag at his bedside, Ritchey said.
While approval by the council greatly improves Volusia County's chances in landing the additional plant, it doesn't guarantee it, according to those involved in the negotiations. B.Braun is also considering alternative sites in California, Pennsylvania and Canada, Sharples recently told The News-Journal.
The estimated cost to build the second plant is in the $100 million range, Sharples said.
On Thursday, however, the outlook was nothing but positive.
"What a beautiful day here in Volusia County and in Daytona Beach," said Bruce Heugel , B. Braun's senior vice president and CFO. "It's not just the sun; anytime you create jobs for people, it's a beautiful day. When I look around, I see not just a distribution center. I see magic."
By Jim Abbott