BELLE GLADE – Community leaders gathered at the Belle Glade marina on March 11 to celebrate the launch of a new industry that will bring 200 jobs to the area.
FINFROCK, a Central Florida design-builder and manufacturer, announced plans to start construction of a new facility in the Glades Gateway Commerce Park. The 94-acre property was the site of the old Glades State Prison, which closed in 2011.
“Deals like this do not happen overnight,” explained Kelly Smallridge of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County. She thanks city and county officials and community leaders who helped make the deal a reality.
“I believe this will be transformational for the Glades region,” said Smallridge. She said it will compliment the existing agricultural industries while giving more residents the opportunity to get jobs in their home town.
Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay said the project would not have been possible without the infrastructure and road improvements made possible by the Florida Legislature. She said former Governor Rick Scott, who made the decision to close the state prison in Belle Glade also worked with Palm Beach County to make sure the property was put on the surplus list so it could be sold and redeveloped. She said 300 jobs were lost when that prison closed.
McKinlay said agriculture will always be vital to Palm Beach County’s economy. “We grow the nation’s food,” she said. Palm Beach County is one of the top agriculture counties in the country. But agriculture is changing with new technology, which has changed the industry. Agriculture jobs now require more training and education. While those jobs pay higher salaries, fewer people are needed to run the farms. While agriculture will always be important to the county’s economy, county leaders want to attract other compatible industries to the area to provide more jobs for the local residents.
“People want to work,” she said. McKinlay said the 200 jobs created by the FINFROCK company in Belle Glade will have an average salary of $38,000/year plus benefits. According to the census, the median household income in Belle Glade is $25,873.
Bill Finfrock said the company was founded by his grandfather in 1945. Their Orlando operation is nearly at 100% capacity. He said when they decided to expand, they were looking for a location closer to their customers in southeast and southwest Florida. He said they were impressed by the warm welcome they received from Belle Glade and Palm Beach County officials.
They plan to start work on the new facility this month, which will generate some construction jobs immediately. The facility will open the second half of 2022. A wide range of jobs at different skill levels will be available including truck drivers, welders, heavy equipment operators and management. The company plans to work with local high schools, West Technical Education Center, Palm Beach State College and CareerSource Palm Beach County to provide training and long term career options. FINFROCK will offer opportunities for career advancement and additional training.
FINFROCK, a vertically integrated design builder, uses proprietary technology to design and build structured parking garages, hotels, student housing, office buildings, multi-unit residential complexes and mixed-use facilities. FINFROCK’s in-house architects, engineers, precast designers, cost estimators, quality control personnel and construction managers specialize in design, manufacturing and construction to allow FINFROCK to serve as the single point of contact for customers.
FINFROCK plans to invest more than $36 million into precast concrete manufacturing facilities. The manufacturing facilities and administrative offices will total about 140,000 square feet.
“We are excited about the prospect of being part of the Belle Glade community,” said CEO Allen Finfrock.
On March 9, the Palm Beach County Board of Commissioners approved economic incentives for FINFROCK. The total five-year economic impact to the region is estimated to be more than $242 million.
Prior to the pandemic, Belle Glade and surrounding towns had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country at 48.6% and the highest poverty rate in Florida.
“I am overwhelmed with the fact that such a multi-million dollar project will be located in the City of Belle Glade,” said Belle Glade Mayor Steve Wilson. “This vertically integrated project will not only provide the much-needed job opportunities, but it will also have a much-needed positive fiscal impact on our community as a whole. We have been waiting for such employment opportunities at this site since the close of the former state prison.”
He said when the prison closed in 2011, it was a hard hit for the community to lose 300 jobs. The economy went down and unemployment went up. Local business partners purchased the old prison property from the state and make a capital investment with the goal of bringing in new industry.
The mayor thanked Smallridge and McKinlay who he said were superheros in keeping the focus on the need for new industry in the Glades. He also thanked Belle Glade City Manager Lomax Harrelle and the business partners.
“Of all the places, you decided to build in the Glades,” the mayor told the Finfrock brothers. “You’re looking out for the people who need it most – good, kindhearted people are here. You will see you are going to make a difference.”
The mayor channeled his inner James Brown to declare: “I feel good!”