VERO BEACH — Whatever the new product line being developed by Float On Boat Trailers Co. is, CEO Ralph Poppell is keeping a tight lid on it until sometime in January.
Float On’s promise to hire 45 more workers, about three times as many as the 31-year-old company now has, was enough to persuade the Economic Development Council of Indian River County to recommend unanimously on Tuesday that the County Commission approve a local jobs grant totaling $137,000 over five years if the company meets its hiring goals.
The County Commission is expected to consider the grant at its Dec. 3 meeting.
“County commissioners are generally supportive of the county’s jobs grant program because it is performance-based,” said Helene Caseltine, economic development director at the Indian River County Chamber of Commerce.
The company collects grant money — $5,000 for the plant manager job that will pay at or above the county’s average wage of $34,119 and $3,000 for each of the 44 jobs that will pay at least 75 percent of the average wage — only when the jobs have been filled for at least a year.
Float On set goals to hire 30 of the new workers by October 2014, 10 more by October 2015 and the other five by October 2016.
“Forty-five full-time jobs with benefits; it’s a win all the way around,” Caseltine said.
Before the Economic Development Council meeting Tuesday, Poppell told Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers the company, which he acquired in 1984 and moved from Fort Pierce to Vero Beach in 1999, will begin manufacturing a new line of boat trailers based on an idea that came to him in March while he was reading an industry magazine.
He called his son, Tim, the company’s president, who expanded on the idea.
“What we are working on has never been done before in the marine industry,” Poppell said.
“We have spent a lot of hours in this project,” he said, adding he hopes to have the new line in production by spring.
Float On work is underway to add 9,000 square feet to its 32,000-square-foot manufacturing facility on 98th Avenue, south of State Road 60, Poppell said. The company will spend about $500,000 for the expansion and the equipment to manufacture the new product line.