MANATEE COUNTY — A nondescript industrial building in southern Manatee County houses a branch of a multinational aerospace company based in France. There, 249 people design, make, repair and overhaul high-tech parts for commercial and military aircraft to the tightest specifications.
Its biggest problem? A lack of housing its workers can afford.
Paris-based Safran SA subsidiary Labinal Power Systems arrived at 2250 Whitfield Ave. in 2014 with its $4.15 million purchase of the plant there owned by Eaton Corp.’s Aerospace Power Distribution Management and Integrated Cockpit Solutions business.
Safran doubled down on its investment in Manatee County by deciding in 2016 that it was the place to consolidate its Aerosource unit from Somerset, New Jersey, which it had owned since 2011.
Safran pursued the Eaton deal because of its product line, Sarasota general manager David Vollroth II said Tuesday.
The consolidation of Aerosource in Manatee County was made because “Florida, especially south Florida, is a mecca for aerospace,” he said following a grand opening information session and tour of the Whitfield Avenue plant.
Safran Electrical & Power held the event to introduce itself to the community, Vollroth said. “We’ve been here 2 1/2 years. We wanted to showcase what we do here.”
The tour of the 125,000-square-foot building showed off its “high-mix, low-volume” production of thousands of electrical components, from tiny switches to relays and circuit breakers that handle high voltages to air-driven generators. The latter are small wind generators installed for decades on commercial aircraft. If the plane’s engines fail, these pop out and spin in the passing wind, creating enough electricity to power the plane’s controls and other essential functions.
The plant has two wind tunnels with 700-horsepower motors that can test the air-driven generators in any wind speed they might be used in.