BROOKSVILLE - Last year, some 120 people, including Florida Governor Rick Scott, jammed the lobby of the Hernando County Office of Business Development to hear an announcement that Accuform Signs was expanding and hiring hundreds of employees.
Accuform Signs would become one of the largest manufacturing centers in the county, roughly the size of two-and-a-half Sam's Club stores.
Not much has happened since that much-publicized event.
But that changed last week when the building department received the first site plan for the new facility, to be located on 40 acres near the corner of Corporate Boulevard and Aerial Way. There have also been some 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 the production center.
But the revised plan shows two separate buildings to be constructed in two phases, the first containing a 200,000-square-foot warehouse, which will serve as the manufacturing nucleus for Accuform.
A second building, with no timeline yet for construction, will contain 60,000 square feet and house the office complex. There is also room to add on to the warehouse in the future if that becomes necessary, said Paul Johnson, director of continuous improvement for Accuform Signs.
Even with 260,000 square feet, the total project is about two-and-a-half times as big as Accuform's existing complex at the airport industrial park.
Original plans called for the building to be open in early 2014. But now Accuform is cautiously forecasting an opening late next year or even early 2015, and that is only if the review process goes smoothly.
Johnson said once the warehouse starts going up it could take 10 months to one year for completion. The work force, he added, will eventually expand from the current 300 to about 571.
Accuform is a global manufacturer of safety signs and the price tag for the expansion has remained the same, about $15 million.
Matthew Campo, one of the owners of Tampa-based Campo Engineering and a civil engineer for the project, said the site plan submitted last week covers the infrastructure improvements at the site, including parking lot configuration, water and sewer and other areas.
A building plan should be submitted in the next two weeks or so, he said.
Campo said Accuform hopes to get its county inspections and start construction by the beginning of 2014.
When the new building opens, there will be new road improvements at the corner of Corporate Boulevard and Aerial Way to accommodate the expected increase in traffic, including trucks and vendors. The state will kick in 100 percent of the funding.
Hernando County was awarded a $1.1 million transportation infrastructure grant to improve the transportation network to accommodate Accuform's expansion. That will also help facilitate traffic on the western end of the airport, home to other corporate park tenants.
The grant will allow 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.
Construction should begin soon.
Johnson said the business has thrived, even in a down economy, which allowed for this major expansion.
"We certainly hope that (the economy) is trending in a good direction," he said. "We'd love to see more growth and there is potential for more growth to come in."
The site plan submission coincides with last week's visit from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who attended a grand opening of Interconnect Cable Technologies Corporation (ICTC) at 16090 Flight Path Drive at the airport.
The new ICTC facility will house the latest technology in electronics manufacturing equipment and is projected to improve efficiencies by more than 20 percent.
ICTC has operated in two buildings, totaling 24,000 square feet, at the airport industrial park at Hernando County Airport since 1988.
But the company, with 76 full-time employees, announced last year that rapid growth made it necessary to move to a larger site, a 43,000-square-foot building.