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Hurricane protection products firm braces for stormy economy in 2024

Advanced Hurricane Technology, while winning accolades and new customers, keeps one eye on a slowing economy that "certainly is scaring everyone here," the firm president says.


Advanced Hurricane Technology President Jaime Zabala Jr., Founder Jaime Zabala Sr. and COO Andy Zabala, pictured in May 2023, have the company positioned to navigate multiple challenges in 2024.
Advanced Hurricane Technology President Jaime Zabala Jr., Founder Jaime Zabala Sr. and COO Andy Zabala, pictured in May 2023, have the company positioned to navigate multiple challenges in 2024.
Photo by Stefania Pifferi
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When you keep racking up the awards, you know you must be doing something right.

Advanced Hurricane Technology is doing just that, winning the Diversity in Business Award in October at the 2023 Industry Appreciation Awards. That honor from the Lee County Economic Development Office, Horizon Council and Horizon Foundation is the latest accolade for the Fort Myers hurricane products protection firm, which was also a finalist for Manufacturer of the Year at last year’s Industry Appreciation Awards. 

“That was actually a pretty big deal and we’re really proud of it,” says Jaime Zabala Jr., president of Advanced Hurricane Technology and a past finalist himself for the Florida Small Business Development Center’s Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year honor. “[Diversity] is something we have focused on. We’ve focused on making sure our hiring practices represent our market, which is diverse upon itself, and also represent who we are. That we actually got recognition for that is really positive.”

Zabala Jr. has been president of the company founded by his father since 2019. He’s continuing to carry on his father’s legacy of innovation, working on potential new additions to the firm’s product line of hurricane shutters and screens. One that will hit the market soon is a hybrid of aluminum shutters and a screen that’s showing a lot of promise. “People are really excited about it,” says the younger Zabala.

The company has also been working on a flood protection product that combines a roll-down shutter with a flood barrier, but that’s moving at a slower pace. It’s successfully held back water during lab tests yet hasn’t performed as well in real-world testing scenarios. “But we’re still working on that,” says Zabala.



Problem solving is just part of the business, and Zabala, 36, expects to be doing a little more of that in 2024. “We’re seeing the economy slow down, and that certainly is scaring everyone here,” he says.

The company does business beyond Florida in Texas, Louisiana and the Carolinas, and also has a subsidiary in Puerto Rico. With that wider footprint, it gains insight on economic conditions in multiple regions.

“I wouldn’t call our products a luxury, but they are certainly higher end,” says Zabala. “These are quality products, and when things start getting hard for people, those are some of the things they start cutting. We’ve noticed a sizable slowdown in all of those locations. Fortunately in Southwest Florida, the market is still very strong. But in all the other places, it’s been ugly. We’ve been calling our dealers trying to assist them, but they’re telling us the market isn’t there right now.”

Zabala hopes the new hybrid product will be a bright spot for the company in 2024. And he’s worked over the years to diversify the company’s revenue streams. So not only does Advanced Hurricane Technology manufacture products that get sold to dealers, but it also sells and installs its own products through its retail and installation division dubbed AHT Shutter Services.

“One of the goals I set for us in 2023 was to hit 100 five-star reviews on Google, and we just eclipsed that mark [by early November 2023],” he says. “We never have to wait for materials. We have everything in stock ready to go.”

 

author

Beth Luberecki

Nokomis-based freelance writer Beth Luberecki, a Business Observer contributor, writes about business, travel and lifestyle topics for a variety of Florida and national publications. Her work has appeared in publications and on websites including Washington Post’s Express, USA Today, Florida Trend, FamilyVacationist.com and SmarterTravel.com. Learn more about her at BethLuberecki.com.

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