LARGO — More than 140,000 square feet of manufacturing space vacated last year by Smith & Nephew will become the new home of Formulated Solutions LLC, a fast-growing pharmaceutical device manufacturer that already employs 100 people, and expects to grow that by 25 percent next year.

Formulated Solutions paid $8.5 million, or $58.45 a square foot, through a holding company for its new building at 11775 Starkey Road in Largo, a major step up from its current 34,000-square-foot facility on 14205 Myerlake Circle in Clearwater. Paradigm Properties & Holdings LLC, which has common ownership with Formulated Solutions, bought the Clearwater space in 2005 for $1.7 million, or $50.30 a square foot.

Staying in Pinellas County was a high priority for Formulated Solutions, according to its president, Eric Dann, but also for Pinellas County Economic Development, which is trying to establish a strong pharmaceutical corridor in the county. Such a corridor could fuel ancillary businesses as well as strengthen the tax base, holding jobs that pay an average of $50,696 in Pinellas annually, according to the  U.S. Department of Labor.

Right place, right time

Formulated Solutions first opened its doors in 2001 with three employees, focusing on manufacturing distribution devices for pharmaceutical, cosmetic, personal care and specialty chemical applications, according to the PDEC. With the new facility, the company will focus more on aerosol cans made completely of recyclable aluminum and using compressed air instead of typical hydrocarbon propellants many blame for atmospheric damage.

Such cans are used for a variety of products including topical analgesics, wound washes and sunscreen, Dann said.

“That’s really been a huge driver for us, and it’s allowed us to have a very good growth rate over the last seven to 10 years,” he said.

In order to keep up with production, Formulated Solutions had to find bigger space.

Staying in Pinellas was a priority because of the company’s existing work force, and finding an available building with clean rooms to help meet existing good manufacturing practices made the Largo location a perfect fit.

Smith & Nephew plc. (NYSE: SNN) vacated the building a year ago after moving its Advanced Wound Management manufacturing operations to China, costing the area 160 jobs. The company still has a strong presence in the area with 135 employees, as it kept sales and administrative jobs at its space in the Carillon area of St. Petersburg.

The company has already begun moving following the June 29 closing, and expects to be fully operational at the new site within the next two months, Dann said. That puts its former site in Clearwater on the market, providing space that many companies looking for new sites in Tampa Bay don’t think exists in Pinellas because of the belief the county is completely built out.

“That’s one of the challenges that we face all the time, and we have to educate these companies that we do have room here,” said Stacey Swank, business development manager for the PCED.

The South Pinellas submarket, where Formulated Solutions is located, boasts an 8 percent vacancy rate in industrial space in the first quarter, according to Colliers Arnold. That’s second only to North Pinellas, where there is a 6.6 percent vacancy, and better than the nearly 12 percent vacancy experienced in Tampa Bay overall on more than 210 million square feet of industrial and flex space.

More than 1 million square feet of space is still available in South Pinellas alone, and the PCED is continuing its push to bring pharmaceutical companies into that region.

“It’s a good industry with great jobs,” Swank said. “There’s plenty of space available in Pinellas County, and we’re working to find the right space for any company that wants to move in.”

Source – Tampa Bay Business Journal