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Horizon Council honors Cape-based Marine Concepts

By Staff | Sep 20, 2008

The Horizon Council honored local business leaders at its annual “Salute to Excellence” awards Friday at the Harbourside Event Center in Fort Myers.

Marine Concepts, a Cape-based fiberglass tooling company, was honored with the Manufacturing Award by the council.

This is the second time Marine Concepts has received the award, the first being 1979. CEO J. Robert Long was a bit shocked when he saw the number of people at the ceremony.

“It’s quite an honor,” Said Long. “We don’t do this to win awards, but its nice to win. When I walked into Harbour Side and saw 800 people, I was knocked back a bit.”

Opened in 1975, Marine Concepts builds large-scale molds for fiberglass products. Founded by Augusto “Kiko” Villalon, the company was sold to Long in 1993, who expanded the company to include locations in Sarasota and on Pine Island.

They now have 130 employees, and over 70,000 square feet of production, engineering, and administrative facilities.

According to Long, Marine Concepts’ success is due to diversifying its workload. When shipbuilding started to slow down, they took on other projects, including work for such large-scale companies as Walt Disney World, and Twistee Treat ice cream franchises.

“There was plenty of business out there, but we really started to diversify when things slowed down,” Long said. “We’re into a lot of different things.”

Marine Concepts joined a wide variety of award winners from all over Lee county.

Tigris Pharmaceuticals and 21st Century Oncology, two businesses charged with battling cancer, received awards for new business and business expansion.

21st Century Oncology is a national company with offices in 15 states, and provide 140 full-time jobs locally.

As an advisory board to county commissioners, the Horizon council is a public-private partnership made up of 62 members from government, education, business and community organizations.

Established in 1991, the mission of the Horizon Council is to work toward improving the business environment in Lee County, retain and encourage the expansion of existing businesses, and attract new and diversified employment to the area, according to their Web site.

Commission Chair Ray Judah praised the work of the Horizon Council, and spoke of the $25 million the county has tucked away specifically to attract high- skill, high-wage jobs like the forthcoming Madden Project, which will be breaking ground this fall.

“You couldn’t be in a better part of the country, no, the world, than Lee county,” Judah said. “We’re pledging $25 million in economic incentives to attract jobs to the area. We’ll be able to provide much-needed jobs to our hard- working families.”