Growing and Thriving During the Pandemic
As 2020 changed the world and almost every part of our lives, businesses met challenges head-on. Some fell victim to the pandemic, but others thrived and are looking forward to continued growth and a strong 2021.
“There were many businesses that continued to do well during COVID, such as our construction companies who have remained very busy,” said Katie Worthington Decker, president and CEO of the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce. “Many of our professional services businesses have also continued to thrive as they were more prepared to pivot to remote work environments. At least two of our marketing agencies actually expanded staff and client base during this time.”
“Manufacturing continues to be a strong industry within Polk County,” says Javier Marin, Senior Director of Business Resiliency & Global Trade for the Central Florida Development Council. “Our strategic location, business-friendly environment and strong talent pipeline offer an ideal marketplace for manufacturing companies.”
Alvic USA, the U.S. subsidiary of Alvic Group, a wood manufacturer based in Spain, is new to the area but has already experienced an increase in sales in its customized, high-end kitchens, said General Manager Jose Aguilar. The company bought the old International Paper building in 2017, demolished parts of it and opened a manufacturing plant. Its workforce has already increased from 28 to 42.
Because Alvic is considered “essential” as part of the supply chain of construction, it was not required to shut down as the pandemic hit. “During this pandemic, many people started spending much more time at home, even started working remotely, so those families decided to reface their houses,” Aguilar said. The 60-year-old company’s products represent a transition from “old” framed kitchens to frameless European style ones, a trend that’s hit the American market.
Its growth has resulted in job creation for three reasons, Aguilar said:
- “We are currently operating only one shift. We have started the second one, so we needed to hire people to run the machines in different shifts.”
- Alvic purchased new machinery and needs new employees to operate it.
- Those new employees need to be trained because the machinery is “very specific and European,” he said, so the company is hiring in advance to train them.
Founded on three pillars: people, product and innovation — Aguilar said innovation is what keeps the company growing. “Ten to 15 years ago we developed a new product, a panel coated with lacquer. In this industry, lacquer didn’t exist. We were the only one in the world with this. It was a big success. That’s when we started to grow worldwide. We have to keep innovating to be competitive in the market.”
The company is now working on developing an antibacterial component for the panels and implementing new materials like real aluminum and steel in some products, he said. In addition, four students and their teacher helped the company develop a plan to become more efficient. That plan includes using solar power to replace the electricity it uses. The solar panels will provide enough power to operate the plant, with some to sell to TECO, he said.
Alvic located its first manufacturing plant in the U.S. in Polk County for three reasons:
- It’s close to Miami, where its distributor was located at the time.
- Polk gives the company easy access to its major markets in New York and Florida.
- It’s cheaper to send products from Spain to the East Coast.
- It’s easier to service its portfolio of customers from South America.
It has since opened a production facility in Las Vegas.
An American private equity firm bought Alvic and wants to expand in the United States, buying other companies and opening showrooms across the country, Aguilar said. One will be in Lakeland.
Digital Boardwalk was founded 12 years ago in Pensacola, Florida, and now has locations across the state, including Lakeland.
Last year, the managed IT company that focuses on customer service saw its revenues grow by 27% year over year, its highest growth since 2016, said co-founder and Executive Vice President Brian Wilkey. With that growth, the company added seven employees, bringing its total to 22. Two things set the company apart from its competitors: Its process and artificial intelligence.
“As a Florida-based business, Digital Boardwalk established a contingency plan for helping businesses transition to remote work in the event they were displaced from their physical place of business. Even though our contingency plan was intended for natural disasters, it applied just as well to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Wilkey said.
“Having built hundreds of business processes around this contingency plan and having practiced executing that plan for over a decade, we were able to help substantially more businesses transition to remote work in the two weeks following the shutdown than many of our competitors. In fact, most of our new clients in 2020 came to us after their current IT service provider could not transition them to remote work quickly or effectively.”
Managed IT and cybersecurity services require thousands of processes and tasks to keep business technology running and secure around the clock. The company wrote “sophisticated system automation and other AI processes to detect incidents, determine the best course of action and automatically implement the solutions,” he said. After the machines do their work, employees provide oversight and intervention, when necessary. “By letting technology do the tedious work for us, we can scale our business quicker than our competitors while also delivering a superior customer experience at a competitive price.”
Rossiter & Commaro Enterprise
Rossiter and Cummaro Enterprise (RCE) is a health management company specializing in telehealth, an industry that has experienced widespread growth during the pandemic. In business for more than three years, it added more than 50 employees in the last year, bringing its current staffing to more than 60, said project manager Linda Cesar.
“Sales have exceeded all of our goals during the pandemic,” she said. “Stringent regulations were lifted, which allowed for more individuals to receive our services.”
Cesar said the company’s core values — respect, integrity, caring, innovation and excellence — sets it apart from its competitors. “In addition, our focus on compliance, speed and efficiency — coupled with our continual efforts to uphold safe harbor practices — guarantee protection for us, our clients and the providers who are part of our network.”
If you own a small business and you are interested in enhancing your business resiliency plan for the future, consider participating in CFDC’s Business Resiliency Workshop Series. The virtual workshop series highlights a variety of business resiliency topics for small and minority-owned businesses such as:
- Disaster Planning
- International Marketings
- Growth & Expansion
- Marketing and
- Business Continuity