Plan sees jobs boost in Belle Glade
A company striving to launch a new lightweight building material is in talks
with county and state economic officials about opening a manufacturing plant in
Palm Beach County's poor rural communities near Lake Okeechobee.
If Fort Myers-based Composite Building Structures (CBS) can pull it off, the
196,000-square-foot plant and administrative facility could employ as many as
Average wages for the largely assembly-line jobs would be $27,000, according to
The project is still in the early stages, with three potential sites being
considered in the Belle Glade area, said Brian P. Crowley, CBS' director of
special projects, who also is a West Palm Beach real estate consultant.
The plant is needed to manufacture CBS' patented residential structural frames,
exterior walls, roofs and rebar from a fiberglass composite, modified from a
substance once used in fighter planes, according to CBS documents.
On Nov. 16, the start-up company had the latest in a series of meetings with the
Business Development Board of Palm Beach County.
The agency has been working with the group for 11 months, BDB President Kelly
"We have really tried to facilitate this project every step of the way," she
Landing a job-generating industry in the Belle Glade area is a priority because
the area's unemployment rate is more than three times the coastal area.
"It is not a done deal," Smallridge said. There are still many outstanding
CBS says it has sold 500,000 private placement shares at $1 each so far, but it
needs $5 million to open an interim facility and $24 million to execute its
strategy. It also has to cut a real estate deal and hopes to be able to tap
county and state incentives to help support the project.
Among the sites CBS is looking at is a 700-acre tract along State Road 80 owned
by the state, but leased to sugar growers.
The plant would open in a 45,000-square-foot temporary facility, most likely a
military-style Quonset hut, with 182 employees able to build the shell of 30
homes a day and ramp up within two years to 999 workers assembling 300 shells
daily, according to CBS President James P. Antonic. The rest of the jobs would
be contract installers.
CBS' fiberglass composite products are designed to take the place of wood frames
and concrete block construction, Antonic said. The shells and wall panels are
flexible and able to withstand winds up to 350 mph, as well as earthquakes, he
The material also is far lighter than wood and concrete and can be manufactured
and installed in two weeks. It also costs about 10 percent to 15 percent less.
In 2003, Antonic was involved with a group seeking to do a similar rollout in
DeSoto County, which was billed as a generator of 1,750 jobs. That company,
Advanced Composite Technology, was headed by Jay Jones and is now defunct.
Antonic was recruited by Jones, but organized the scientists who engineered the
final composite material and was able to keep control of the product.
He reorganized into CBS this year.
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