BRADENTON, Fla. – IRISS, the manufacturer that relocated from the United Kingdom and opened a $5.7-million global headquarters in the Bradenton area in April 2013, is already expanding to accommodate growth. IRISS plans to add 15,000 sq. ft. to the company’s existing 33,000 sq. ft. facility in Lakewood Ranch, and hire 25 additional employees in the next three years, according to Sharon Hillstrom, president and chief executive officer of the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp. (EDC).
“IRISS originally moved to the Bradenton area to consolidate manufacturing operations and expand its global business.” Hillstrom said. “This expansion, within less than a year of the facility’s grand opening, demonstrates the rapid growth that makes IRISS a desirable employer in our community.”
Since locating in the Bradenton area, IRISS constructed the new facility, invested more than $1.5 million in equipment, and hired 28 employees. The company makes industrial-grade infrared windows that are used by power generation facilities and other industrial customers world-wide that deal with electrical equipment.
To accelerate the company’s expansion and additional job creation, Manatee County Government qualified IRISS to receive up to $28,196 in performance-based incentives as the company adds 25 quality jobs over the next three years and completes construction. The jobs created must have an average wage at least 15 percent higher than the current local average wage of $35,633. The company’s facility also qualified for the county’s rapid response permitting program.
“We chose our current site at 10306 Technology Terrace with expansion in mind; however, we never realized our growth would explode like it did in 2013,” said Martin Robinson, IRISS chief executive officer. “We have grown our business organically, signed agreements with several electrical manufacturers, partnered with companies that have a lot of depth in key markets, and made our first acquisition of a company out of New Jersey. In 2014, we will see the fruits of our labor with these projects and will release three new products from our research and development efforts.”
Bradenton Area Location Solves Growth Challenge
IRISS Infrared Windows use infrared cameras that can see the infrared energy given off by problems such as corrosion that may affect electrical switchgear or transformers. The IRISS window allows technicians to monitor equipment and intervene before dangerous – even life-threatening – problems develop. IRISS is also an industry leader in providing training programs and expertise to clients.
From 2007 to 2011, IRISS was growing at an impressive rate year-over-year while operating from two manufacturing sites around the world, one in the United Kingdom and one in Australia, and an assembly plant in the U.S. at IRISS headquarters in Bradenton.
Then, U.S. demand for the company’s industrial-grade infrared windows spurred a decision that was already percolating in the board room.
Consolidating manufacturing and the global headquarters needed to happen sooner, rather than later, and the United States seemed like the right place, Robinson said. IRISS considered other options; including remaining in the United Kingdom, but proximity to the U.S. market and the attractive climate and lifestyle of the Bradenton area drew the company to Florida’s west coast.
For a foreign-owned business, relocating to the United States presents numerous challenges – from visas to bank accounts – not to mention the risk of committing millions in facility and equipment investments in a relatively unfamiliar community, Hillstrom said.
The IRISS team discovered that the Bradenton area could provide the family lifestyle sought by its executives and key employees who would make the move across the Atlantic. The community also offered a sophisticated business location in a new technology park in Lakewood Ranch – at an affordable price.
The Bradenton Area EDC assisted the company with site search, governmental relations, and general support of the myriad details that face a foreign-owned business relocating to the United States. The EDC helped IRISS apply for local and state economic development incentives, Manatee County’s rapid response permitting program, resources for employee recruitment, and workforce training grants.
In 2012, IRISS qualified for state economic development incentives based on plans to hire 20 employees in three years; instead, the company hired 28 in one year.
“IRISS is proof positive that Manatee County offers the right combination of community assets and a business-friendly local government that fast-growth businesses are seeking,” said Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker. “By judiciously applying performance-based economic development incentives and providing a professional, efficient approach to the permitting process, Manatee County Government demonstrates its commitment to fostering the creation of quality jobs for local residents.”
Manatee County offers several incentives to businesses wishing to relocate or expand in the community. A list of Manatee County’s economic development incentives is available at www.mymanatee.org/econ_dev.
About the Bradenton Area EDC
The Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp. (EDC) is the lead economic development organization for the Bradenton area’s nine communities located on the south side of Tampa Bay. The EDC works to diversify the local economy by attracting and retaining high-wage jobs for area residents, and connecting existing businesses to the resources they need to succeed. Information: www.ThinkBradentonArea.com.