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Making a Comeback

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  • | 9:55 a.m. December 23, 2011
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Rodney Hershberger, 55, has been at the custom windows and door manufacturer PGT Industries Inc. since co-founding it in 1980, and he has been its CEO since 2005.

With its close relationship to the building industry, the manufacturer, one the Gulf Coast's largest, saw its revenue tumble 55% from 2006 to 2009. However, in 2010, the firm posted its first revenue increase in four years growing by 6% to $176 million.

Q: What do you expect in general terms for 2012?

A: While I think things will be slightly better next year it will still be small, possibly toward the back end of the year depending on the elections. We don't expect a great 2012.

Q: How do you feel Florida is fairing in the incentives battle with other states for manufacturing businesses?

A: In the last four to five years, I think [business] has become more concerned about costs, while most government incentives have been focused on expansions.
Florida has gotten better; not so much on the state level, but local governments have gotten better. They've realized that while tourism is certainly important, sustainable companies give back to their communities and are just as important.

While it sounds sexy to go after new companies, in a lot of ways it's better to help existing companies grow. The thought has been that the loyalty wasn't there in 2011, so what's to say it's going to be there in 2013.

Sarasota County understands the importance of manufacturing businesses better than it did before.

Q: What are your company's three biggest challenges?

A: There's unseen government regulation. In the last 10 years there have been about 38,000 new regulations for business. While not all of those apply to PGT, understanding the regulatory environment is a huge challenge.

Even companies like ours are hesitant to expand when we aren't sure what the next regulation will be. Health care, for one, is a huge issue that's out there.

Falling in line with that is taxes. I pretty much know what I'm going to pay for 2011, but I have no clue what laws are going to be like in 2012 that are going to affect my and my company's taxes. If I have to choose between having the money to pay taxes or an expansion you can be sure I'm going to pay that tax bill.

And then third, business is tough, but that's the game we enjoy playing. Even so, you don't always get to make decisions that make it easy to sleep well at night.

Q: The state manufacturers association is calling for an end to the 10% productivity requirement on new machinery/equipment purchases for a sales tax exemption. Do you agree?

A: [Yes]. When you go through your depreciation it would be nice to think that technology would always bring in a machine that's 10% more productive than the machine its replacing but its not always the case. We can replace [punch presses] with controls that are better, but I'm not sure I could say they're 10% faster than the machine that wore out.

Q: In your opinion, are more new small manufacturing businesses being created in the state than in 2007?

A: I'm not sure there are more, but they're better. In 2004 and 2005 there were a tremendous number of new businesses and a lot faired poorly. Business owners that are starting today are a little wiser. They know what they are looking for. And a lot of people that are starting business right now are doing it because of they have a passion for the business they are in. Passion creates better businesses.


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