BROOKSVILLE - In October 2012, Gov. Rick Scott trekked to Hernando County and took part in a press conference outside the Accuform Signs airport office, heralding the company's expansion as the largest in Florida at the time.
Accuform Signs planned to spend $15 million on a new 305,000-square-foot building that would eventually employ about 550 people, almost double its workforce. Hernando County was awarded a $1.1 million grant to improve the transportation network to accommodate Accuform's expansion and proposed new building on 44 acres at the corner of Corporate Boulevard and Aerial Way.
But Wayne Johnson, the company's chief executive officer, said Monday he has shelved plans for the expansion and will instead look at other possible company acquisitions. He declined to be more specific but he did say that the expansion project may be revisited late this year.
And even if it is resurrected, it likely won't be as big as originally planned, he said.
"We had a general meeting with county building officials and contractors and told them to put it on hold," Johnson said.
For now, the 300 Accuform employees will continue to work out of the existing building they have been in since 2003 at 16228 Flight Path Drive in the airport's industrial park.
Had the expansion moved forward, Accuform Signs, a global manufacturer of safety signs and other products, would have become one of the largest manufacturing centers in the county, roughly the size of two-and-a-half Sam's Club stores.
Construction had originally been scheduled to start in early 2013 but was pushed back. The company submitted to the county last November a revised, scaled-down site plan showing changes in the original conception, the biggest being a two-phased project with two separate buildings instead of a single facility.
The original plan called for a single 305,000-square-foot building, which would have housed both the administrative offices and production center.
But the revised plan showed two separate buildings to be constructed in two phases. The first, containing a 200,000-square foot warehouse, would serve as the manufacturing nucleus for Accuform.
A second building was to be 60,000 square feet and house the office complex.
Groundbreaking on the proposed facility was to begin April 1.
"We'd love to have had a new building but for financial reasons, acquisition growth is our focus right now and the best way to grow our business is the immediate future," Johnson said.
Soon after the Accuform expansion announcement, Hernando County was awarded the transportation infrastructure grant.
The grant allows for the realignment of Corporate Boulevard, a traffic signal at Corporate Boulevard and Aerial Way and the extension of Technology Drive by about 1,500 feet.
Despite the company's pull-out, that intersection improvement project will move forward because it will still help facilitate traffic on the western end of the airport, which is home to other corporate park tenants, County Commissioner Jim Adkins said.
Adkins called it unfortunate that Accuform will not be pursuing its expansion but at least the company plans to stay in Hernando County.
"I don't know what the economy has done in impacting them one way or another," Adkins said. "They have probably been advised by their financial people."