At the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, we believe a diverse economy is key to a robust economy. While our tourism and hospitality industries are key to Collier County’s economic stability, there has been a significant focus in recent years to grow the manufacturing industry in Collier County and throughout the region.
There are about 317 manufacturing operations in Collier County, ranging from medical device manufacturers and chemical manufacturers to cable and wire manufacturers, employing more than 4,200 individuals in the region and contributing more than $988.7 mil-lion to the local economy in 2018.
The county’s diverse operations include Arthrex, a global medical device company. A leader in new product development and medical education, Arthrex is a huge economic driver and currently employs 3,000 people in the SWFL region, with the goal of adding 500 new jobs locally by 2021. A new event and administration center, as well as a hotel for visiting clients, is scheduled to open in early 2020. Based in Collier for the last 20 years, Arthrex has laid the groundwork for growth in the medical device manufacturing industry, with several smaller companies emerging to supplement Arthrex’s needs.
One notable expansion in the medical device manufacturing sector is Lenkbar, which produces flexible screws for joints. The company will be moving into a new, 20,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art facility in Naples in 2019, and received the “Company to Watch” Excellence in Industry Award from the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce in 2018.
In an entirely separate manufacturing field, Pelican Wire is an employee-owned designer and producer of custom UL certified insulated appliance, building, fixture and floor wires. Celebrating 50 years in business this year, the company has about 80 employees and serves clients around the world.
Another company making big waves in the manufacturing industry is Progress Rail Naples. A subsidiary of Caterpillar, Progress Rail Naples produces fuel injection pumps, injector assemblies, nozzle assemblies, delivery valves, plungers and barrels and electronic injectors for the locomotive industry. The Naples division employs roughly 80 employees and is active through-out the community, speaking on topics such as work-force and talent.
As these companies grow, so does the need for a talented workforce. Collier County Public Schools and The Greater Naples Chamber have recognized the importance of a “grow your own” talent strategy and is taking steps to create a talent pipeline for local manufacturers. The school district, with the assistance of the Naples Chamber, received a $3 million grant from the state of Florida to create the Center for Manufacturing Excellence, which will expand and enhance Immokalee Technical College’s manufacturing offerings at a centralized location. The center, which is set to open in January 2020, will not only offer a traditional machining course, but also create specialized, industry-specific training programs and an apprenticeship program.
Fostering growth in the manufacturing industry is critical to diversifying our economy, and it is something that we at the Greater Naples Chamber work hard every day to address. By understanding the challenges and opportunities the industry faces, we are on the forefront of advocating for this sector. We have a strong partnership with local and state government, the business community and educational institutions to ensure that our manufacturers have the access to the resources that they need to growth and thrive.
Melanie R. Schmees is Director of Business and Economic Research at The Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce. She conducts business retention and expansion visits, heads economic research and analysis initiatives and coordinates with numerous govern-mental, utility and not-for-profit organizations critical to economic growth marketing, services or contacts. She sits on the Board of the Southwest Regional Manufacturers Association and is a member of The Young Professionals Society of Naples. To contact her, email melanie@napleschamb.