Florida Custom Mold is moving some of its injection molding work to the West Indies, opening a facility in the Dominican Republic.
The company also is shifting its headquarters and main molding operation from Clearwater, Fla., to a rural site 35 miles north in Odessa, Fla.
FCM, founded in 1988, will move to Odessa starting in mid-December, said Jim Hubert, project manager responsible for both the Odessa and Dominican projects. FCM will spend $3.7 million to buy and renovate a building in Odessa, he said.
The company wants to escape traffic headaches and the lack of space in its 54,000-square-foot Clearwater site.
FCM already has moved its tooling operations to a site in Largo, Fla., that it bought in the spring from Forma Tool & Mold Inc. FCM has about 20 toolmakers in Largo, Hubert said.
The satellite plant in the Dominican Republic will help the company compete with lower-cost molders in Asia, Hubert said.
The company scouted sites in both Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic, on the southern end of the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean. Getting parts in and out of the Dominican Republic proved easy, with shipping by boat taking three days from Tampa, Fla., Hubert said.
FCM is opening a 25,000-square-foot site in Santo Domingo, and has an option to buy another 25,000 square feet, Hubert said.
The company found an educated workforce, many of them skilled in the island's indigenous textile trade, and has hired about 20 to start. FCM would like to increase its workforce to as many as 60 people within two years, Hubert said.
The Dominican factory will assemble parts and perform secondary operations such as sonic welding, Hubert said. The company will add two injection presses, with clamping forces of 700 and 400 tons.
Eventually, FCM would like to shift more injection molding to the Dominican plant, Hubert said.
``A satellite plant in the Dominican Republic gives us lower labor costs at a time when so many customers are looking offshore to China,'' Hubert said. ``It's a lower-cost place to manufacture in general.''
Ideally, FCM would like to use the Odessa site mainly for development, warehousing and administrative work, with only a light volume of molding, Hubert said.
The Dominican subsidiary, run independently with local managers, will be called Caribbean Custom Mold. The plant will open early next year, once consistent electrical power sources are negotiated, he said.
``Some of our defense and military work must stay in this country,'' Hubert said. ``But a lot of our products require high labor costs, even in molding. If we can move that work offshore, we will.''
FCM specializes in hard-to-produce parts such as housings for medical devices, complex electronics components and enclosures, and optic lenses and light pipes for automotive and aerospace uses.
President and Chief Executive Officer Mike Cave, who started as a tool builder, founded and owns FCM.
The company's new flagship plant in Odessa will house 32 injection presses and 80 employees. FCM also owns a year-old shielding and painting operation, called Ecoplate Custom Finishing, in Holiday, Fla.