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Fresh air

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  • | 10:00 a.m. October 24, 2014
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Florida isn't known as a manufacturing state, but it turns out there's plenty of labor to support the industry. Just ask Inovo, a manufacturer of equipment that helps people breathe better.

A sign posted on the door at Inovo's manufacturing, engineering and assembly facility in Lehigh Acres tells job prospects the company no longer takes walk-in applications.

Since the company relocated its operations to Lee County from Collier County last year, Inovo has been swamped with so many job seekers that it had to stop taking applications from walk-in candidates. The company now has 100 employees.

“Our first month or two we were struggling with how to take applications,” says Rich Kocinski, president of Inovo. He says “hundreds” of well-qualified people applied by walking in the front door unannounced.

The only area where labor has been difficult is finding engineers and managers, many of whom have to be recruited from outside Southwest Florida. “Our biggest challenge is finding middle managers,” Kocinski says.

While Kocinski declines to disclose specific financial performance of the privately held company, the company's sales grew 28% last year. It makes a wide range of products to help patients breathe better, including regulators and devices called conservers that control the flow of oxygen from portable tanks.

Inovo acquired the former LeeSar distribution facility in Lehigh Acres last year for $1.8 million, property records show. LeeSar, which buys and distributes medical equipment to hospitals, vacated the 60,000-square-foot building to move to a larger facility it built in Fort Myers.

Inovo moved from Naples to Lehigh Acres because the company needed more space and wanted to stay in the region, not because economic-development organizations recruited it. “There's always the option of moving out of state,” Kocinski says.

In fact, executives with Inovo asked Lee County for financial assistance for the relocation, believing that they qualified because they provide good-paying jobs in the $40,000 to $100,000 range and spent $400,000 to upgrade the building. “We've gotten no help whatsoever,” says Kocinski, who says the company wasn't eligible because it was moving from adjacent Collier County.

Still, Inovo executives are pushing ahead with plans to grow the company's operations in Lehigh Acres. The building is located close to Interstate 75 and Southwest Florida International Airport, which is important because Inovo's products are resold through a network of distributors to more than 10,000 customers.

Originally, Inovo was in 30,000 square feet of space in Naples, half the space of the Lehigh Acres facility. Inovo's founder was Len Zaiser, a serial Naples entrepreneur who started several other successful manufacturing operations in Southwest Florida including Structure Medical and Azimuth Technology.

Zaiser sold Inovo to a group of Naples investors in 2006. Subsequently, Drive Medical, a leading manufacturer of durable medical equipment based in Port Washington, N.Y., acquired Inovo in 2011. Inovo is now a subsidiary of Drive Medical.

Follow Jean Gruss on Twitter @JeanGruss


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