After a year of construction, employees mixed the first batches of concrete at a 140,000-square-foot industrial complex that opened this month in Belle Glade where Glades Correctional Institution once stood.
Someday soon, that concrete will make its mark in Boca Raton as part of a technology center’s parking garage.
Local officials praised the start of production at the Finfrock facility, off Orange Avenue Circle near Lakeside Medical Center, as it will bring more than 200 jobs to one of the areas in Palm Beach County with the highest unemployment rates.
“There are lots of people who need jobs,” said Steve B. Wilson, Belle Glade’s mayor. “It’s going to be a great economic engine for our community.”
A designer and builder of parking garages, Finfrock bought the 93-acre industrial site at the Gateway Commerce Park in 2021 for $36 million to build a precast concrete manufacturing facility and offices. About 65 people are working there.
“It’s the largest economic development project in the Glades region,” said Kelly Smallridge, president and chief executive officer of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County.
Smallridge says the company will hire for a variety of manufacturing and administrative positions that will pay competitive wages above the area’s median household income. Her office projected the facility will have a $242 million economic impact in The Glades, a largely agricultural region along the shores of Lake Okeechobee.
“This project will attract additional manufacturing operations, as well as small ‘mom-and-pop’ businesses that will establish a location in order to provide services and goods,” Smallridge said.
Project to boost economic development in the Glades
Finfrock, based in Apopka, has played a role in the construction of structures across the state, including Boca West Country Club, the Bradenton Judicial Parking Garage and the Aventura Hospital. It also has overseen the construction of residential buildings and hotels in Central Florida.
“They built a facility in Belle Glade to manufacture the structures and then transport them to South Florida projects,” said Smallridge, whose agency helped to lure the company to Palm Beach County and cut the deal for their expansion.
Two years ago, Smallridge heard Finfrock executives wanted a manufacturing facility to produce concrete in South Florida and knew she had to make them an offer.
“Have you ever thought about locating your facility in a place called Belle Glade?” Smallridge asked them in 2020 during their visit. None had heard of the area.
“Just give us a chance,” she pleaded.
That day, they toured the city and visited the industrial facility. Two years later, the first concrete bags made in the complex are being used to build the parking garage for the Boca Raton Innovation Campus technology park
Allen Finfrock, the company’s chief executive officer, said production at the Belle Glade facility gives them efficiency to meet project timelines.
“Our vast experience building parking garages across the country also allows us to draw from our knowledge and provide clients with beautifully planned and executed structures that will stand the test of time,” Frinfrock said.
The company’s expansion was awarded the ”Rural Deal of the Year” by the Florida Economic Development Council. Smallridge said it’s the the most rewarding project she’s worked on during her 35 years in economic development in Palm Beach County
Project to boost economic development in The Glades
An hour west from West Palm Beach, Belle Glade has long history of economic difficulties. The coronavirus pandemic affected its residents disproportionately, since most work in the service and agricultural industries.
The opening of Finfrock’s manufacturing complex, Wilson said, is a victory both for the company and underserved residents of The Glades.
He said it will help the community recover the 200 jobs that were lost when Glades Correctional closed in 2011. He is eager to see the company hire local residents and hopes it will lift and attract more businesses to Belle Glade.
“Farming is the primary force, but we are diversifying,” said mayor. “We feed the country, and now we will be providing the materials for people to build.”
Palm Beach Post