Laura Layden , firstname.lastname@example.org; 239-263-48188:15 p.m. EDT October 1, 2016
Arthrex, a global leader in medical device manufacturing, has modified the size of its proposed office building at its North Naples headquarters.
The privately held company — one of Collier County's largest employers — scaled back an earlier plan, which included a 205-foot building at its growing campus.
A new rendering proposes a 122-foot building, one that company president and founder Reinhold Schmieding hopes will allay the concerns of some nearby residents, who worry the device maker's plans are out of scale with their upscale communities, which include multimillion-dollar homes and six-figure golf memberships.
The expansion is designed to meet the company's needs for at least the next decade. Arthrex is growing by 15 percent to 20 percent a year.
"With the high price of land in Collier County, we need to grow up and not out," Schmieding said.
Company leaders met with about 20 neighboring residents Friday to unveil the revised proposal, a multimillion-dollar marquee building estimated to cost $73.4 million.
"Arthrex has spent the last two weeks considering the input from our neighboring communities and we have worked assiduously to address their concerns and feedback," said David Bumpous, Arthrex's senior director of operations, in a news release. "The reconfigured plan cuts the building height by more than 80 feet and still allows Arthrex to sufficiently plan for future growth, while maintaining the aesthetics and quality of the Naples community.”
Alan Rosoff, a resident of Collier's Reserve, who said he attended the meeting as a representative for his community: "We acknowledge that they did show us things, that they are seeking some compromise. What we want to see is does it truly work for the neighborhood."
Rosoff said homeowners associations needed more time to reflect on the changes before coming to any conclusions. One issue that remains is traffic. The area around Arthrex's Creekside Boulevard campus parallels a narrow two-land throughway and faces a bustling post office.
Arthrex has been buying property and constructing new buildings — or expanding — across Southwest Florida. Its growth has been undeterred. The company is a key economic driver for the region and the state. It has offices around the world including in Germany, where it was founded 35 years ago in Munich.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott and other state and local leaders routinely laud Arthrex as an example of the type of company that the Sunshine State needs. The company has also been recognized as a top place to work by Fortune Magazine.
"Arthrex has demonstrated in many ways during their time here in Naples that they try hard to be a good corporate citizen," said Michael Dalby, president and CEO of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce. "They are listening and they are trying to do what they can to make the project fit in where they are at right now, trying to balance that with the need to accommodate their expanded staff."
Collier County's Planning Commission will consider the project Tuesday. County commissioners are slated to vote on the proposal Oct. 25. Final approval of the expansion requires a supermajority vote — or four out of five county commissioners.
Arthrex faces many challenges in Southwest Florida, including difficulty filling jobs, high living costs, hurricane risks and now the Zika virus scare, Schmieding said. Efforts to acquire neighboring land used by the post office have gone nowhere, limiting the company's options to grow at Creekside Commerce Park, where it already operates out of half a dozen buildings, some of which it recently expanded.
Lucrative incentive offers are constantly coming his way from other cities and other states, Schmieding said, and he reviews them all. Still, he said he considers Collier County home and it's where he wants to continue doing business.
"Will we pick up and relocate? That's probably unlikely to happen," Schmieding said.
This is isn't the first time residents have fought zoning and land use changes at Creekside. They challenged the Naples Daily News' plans to put up a 75-foot building to support its expansion and a new state-of-the art press. The newspaper company made concessions, including adding more landscaping and open areas and choosing a softer design.
The tallest office buildings in Collier County are eight stories: the 161,000-square-foot Fifth Third Center at Vanderbilt Beach Road and U.S. 41 and the IberiaBank building on Goodlette-Frank Road and Golden Gate Parkway. Arthrex's original building would have been 12 stories.
Arthrex's expansion is just the kind of project Collier County's government and business leaders say they want: a headquarters that will create hundreds of good-paying jobs and further solidify the medical device manufacturer's presence in Southwest Florida.
“Arthrex is a great Florida company that employs over 2,200 Floridians. We look forward to seeing them continue to grow in our state," said Lauren Schenone, press secretary for Gov. Rick Scott.
The prized project has been endorsed by the Naples chamber and it has been awarded more than $5.9 million in county and state incentives, designed to ensure it's built in Collier County.
"We are supportive of Arthrex's desire to remain here and retain the great jobs that they have here," said Dudley Goodlette, the chamber's immediate past chairman. "I know that we've looked at this carefully."
Residents who have resisted Arthrex's project say they like the company and economic development, but want a balance that considers the impact of the company's expansion on traffic and the environment.
Arthrex wants to close off part of Creekside Boulevard to traffic so it can create a campus-like setting with walking and biking paths and make the road safer to cross for its employees.
"When Arthrex bought the property they knew what the height restrictions were and what the road restrictions were and, if there is a business case for why the applicant wants substantial variations from existing ordinances, of course we're open to those," said George Mutter, a board member for the homeowners association at Collier's Reserve.
"I think all of the boards are absorbing the implications of the new input," he added. "They are also aware that, whatever else the new plan may do, it does not address the traffic or environmental concerns."
Collier County planners recommend approval of Arthrex's application, with conditions. They have asked Arthrex to pay for road improvements in front of its new building to accommodate more traffic. Rerouted vehicles would include semitrailers servicing the Naples Daily News and delivery trucks to and from the post office.
Before Arthrex agreed to lower its building, county planners found the project was "not out of scale with the needs of the neighborhood or county," though staff acknowledged it would have been visible from Pelican Marsh and Collier's Reserve.
The expansion will create 560 corporate jobs. About 480 of Arthrex's manufacturing employees at Creekside, who work in shifts, will soon move to Ave Maria, lessening the impact of the new jobs on the surrounding community in North Naples.
Arthrex will add jobs across all of its departments, from information technology to finance. That includes medical research and development jobs the county has targeted as part of its efforts to diversify the local economy.