Companies, Leaders and Sectors to Watch in 2012

In his most recent work, Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos and Loss – Why Some Thrive Despite Them All, Jim Collins said, “We cannot predict the future, but we can make it.” Collins’ crystal ball, for who is “making the future,” is the research he began back in 2002, when the first signs that our seemingly endless economic growth was starting to falter. From that perspective he identifies the types of businesses that have continued to grow, in spite of the odds.

He and his coauthor Morten T. Hansen asked, “Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not? When buffeted by tumultuous events, when hit by big, fast-moving forces that we can neither predict nor control, what distinguishes those who perform exceptionally well from those who underperform or worse?”

These are questions we all are asking – or should be – and right here on the Space Coast. What’s more, we can see those companies and sectors that are building and positioning themselves to grow despite, or perhaps because of, the times. As Collins said, “No sector of society thrives because of chaos, but some thrive in chaos.”

South Brevard

One Space Coast juggernaut that has continued to expand and diversify is Harris Corporation, which was recently named a 2011 Top 100 Global Innovator by Thomas Reuters Corp. Harris is one of only 40 U.S. based companies, and one of seven communications companies, selected as a top global innovator.

Harris recently announced plans to break ground on a new $100 million high tech center on its Palm Bay campus, thus moving that global impact and reputation to a local investment. The planned six-story, 450,000-square-foot center is part of a broader modernization initiative designed to foster engineering innovation, while retaining existing and attracting new highly skilled engineers to the region. Harris anticipates that this expansion, which will begin this year and be finished in 2014, will add 100 technical and support positions, 1,200-1,400 employees will be relocated there and 300 contractor/construction positions are expected to be created over the next 3 years.

Since most authors and researchers who study companies that do and don’t succeed in extreme environments usually focus on the leader, it is equally significant that the unveiling of these plans was made by Harris’ new president and CEO William “Bill” Brown. Brown succeeds Howard Lance, who was at the helm since 2003 and announced his retirement in 2011. Brown was previously with United Technologies Corp. as senior vice president of corporate strategy and development, responsible for strategic planning and acquisitions.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Lewis Hay III, who serves on Harris’ board of directors, said of Brown, “With his strategic acumen, operating and commercial skills and large-scale P&L management experience, the board unanimously believes that Bill will be an exceptional leader and the perfect person to grow this company.”

New Faces, New Futures

This changing of the guard is being seen across the county. Mike Means who was once described as “the Babe Ruth of healthcare CEO’s,” under whose leadership Health First became the largest health system in Brevard County with over $1 billion in revenue, and the county’s second largest private employer with over 6,500 associates, also retired this past year along with his right-hand man and chief operating officer, Larry Garrison. Health First’s new CEO, Steven P. Johnson, previously served as the president of hospital operations for SSM Health Care – St. Louis, a seven-hospital system based in Missouri.

Johnson began his career as a clinical psychologist, with a Master’s degree in Human Development and a doctorate in Psychology, before moving to the administrative side of the business. In one of his first statements since accepting the position Johnson said, “Health First is a wonderful organization with a well-deserved reputation for state-of-the-art clinical care delivered with great compassion and respect. I am convinced that Health First can lead the nation in demonstrating how the health of a community can and should be advanced.”

In addition to Means, on the fifth anniversary of his presidency of Brevard Community College, Dr. James Drake announced, “In re-assessing my earlier thought of taking a sabbatical, I felt this best met my needs. It’s the right time to retire.” The college, which operates on four campuses and had over 25,000 students enrolled last year and employees 1,200, will announce the new president early in 2012.

One of the most impressive local companies – which is capturing international attention – is Lighting Science Group. The Satellite Beach company received more than $100 million in LED lighting product orders this year – an increase of more than 100 percent as compared to the same time last year. This is especially amazing given that their chairman and CEO Zachary S. Gibler died Jan. 3, 2011 following serious injuries sustained from a bicycle accident. To Gibler’s credit, Richard Weinberg, a member of the company’s board of directors said of him, “One of his greatest strengths was his aptitude for building a deep and effective management team, one of the best in the lighting industry.”

Their new president and CEO, James “Jim” Haworth, joined Lighting Science Group after serving with Philips as a vice president of marketing and strategy. His path to Philips began when the company he led as president and CEO, JJI Lighting Group, sold in 2006 to Genlyte Group, which was subsequently purchased by Philips in 2008.

Speaking of this past year’s stellar success, Haworth said of Lighting Science, “Surpassing the $100 million order mark this year is not only a significant achievement for our company, but for the entire LED lighting industry. As a result of increasing consumer and business demand, we expect LED lighting sales to grow exponentially over the next couple of years.”

Central & North Brevard

With the end of the Shuttle Program, no area in the county has been hit harder than Titusville and Kennedy Space Center. However in April 2011, NASA announced the KSC Visitor Complex had been selected to permanently display Space Shuttle Atlantis. The $100 million exhibit will be the marquee element of the Complex’s 10-year master plan. Initial design concepts for the 65,000 square-foot home for the space-flown orbiter include viewing the space shuttle “in flight.” Officials plan to break ground on Atlantis’ new home in 2012 with a grand opening planned for 2013.

In addition, the Boeing Company is negotiating with NASA and Space Florida to use Space Shuttle Discovery’s hangar at KSC for construction of the new CST-100 crew capsule. The proposed seven-passenger capsule would be launched by a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It’s designed to support the International Space Station. Boeing said it would create 140 jobs over the next 18 months and 550 jobs in total, over several years.

Homegrown success stories like Craig Technologies and Luke & Associates added another impressive chapter to their respective sagas, as both companies diversified out of their traditional niche and continued their move into the private sector. Also, R.J. Scaringe, the 28-year-old founder of Rivian Automotive, is advancing toward the unveiling and manufacture of his energy efficient coupe. The car, two years away from production, is projected to get more than 60 mpg and sell for less than $30,000. Rivian plans to sell somewhere between 20,000 to 30,000 units a year initially.

One can’t talk about North-Central Brevard without mentioning the progress Port Canaveral made this past year and their plans for 2012. For the first time in its history, more than 3 million multi-day cruise passengers sailed from Port Canaveral, contributing $40 million in cruise revenue during the fiscal year ending September 30, also a record as newer and larger cruise ships and 66 additional ship ports of call helped boost passenger totals. Cruise traffic rose 16 percent with 3.1 million passengers. Overall, Port Canaveral’s total revenue surged dramatically to nearly $57.8 million, eclipsing its previous record of $51.2 in 2006 by 13 percent.

Summing up the Great By Choice strategy, Stan Payne, CEO of Port Canaveral said, “We emerged from dismal economic times financially strong and focused on the future, fully accepting our role and responsibility as one of the primary economic engines for the Space Coast.”