West Volusia’s businesses, big and small, rode the same ups and downs of the COVID-19 pandemic as the rest of us, and still managed to do remarkably well this year on the whole. Out-of-state corporations opened new branch facilities here, retailers opened new stores here, and some small businesses were able to expand here.
For starters, Sparton Corp., a provider of sonobuoys for the U.S. Navy and engineered products for the defense industry, was acquired early in the year by Texas-based Elbit Systems of America LLC.
Then in October, the company established a “Wall of Fame” to honor outstanding employees. The first eight employees (out of Sparton’s roughly 600-member workforce) were all workers with at least 40 years of employment at the plant.
In early December, Bill Toti retired as CEO and Tracy Howard was named to the position. Howard joined Sparton following his leadership of Leonardo DRS Naval Electronics business as senior vice president and general manager since 2020.
Stetson University was also busy. Some highlights:
Construction officially began on the Cici & Hyatt Brown Hall for Health & Innovation in early June. The two-story, 40,000-square-foot science complex will serve students studying the health sciences, environmental sciences and other fields. The $18 million project includes renovating Sage Hall next door and is due to open for the fall semester 2022.
More than 16 months after he officially took office, Christopher F. Roellke, Ph.D., was inaugurated as the 10th president in Stetson University’s 138-year history. The presidential inauguration, delayed all those months by the COVID-19 pandemic, was finally held Nov. 6 in the Edmunds Center on campus.
Some of the other Stetson news this year:
Stetson University was recognized nationally by Intelligent.com for having one of the top online Master of Accountancy (MAcc) programs. The School of Business Administration program is one of five leading universities in Florida in the ranking. Stetson also was recognized as one of the leading undergraduate institutions in the country and region (Southeast) by The Princeton Review for the seventh year in a row.
The Professional and Corporate Education (PaCE) program at Stetson’s School of Business Administration began offering classes that can help this area’s innovative companies. PaCE offers more than 30 professional education programs taught by business-school faculty members, adjuncts and subject-matter experts.
Several corporations chose West Volusia in which to open branch stores or manufacturing plants.
The parade started in the first months of 2021, when AeroSport — an Illinois-based flight school, aircraft dealership and maintenance provider — opened a branch on the DeLand Municipal Airport. The company began in DeLand with a flight school and some light sport-aircraft maintenance on mostly an appointment-only basis.
In May, Alcom LLC of Winslow, Maine — a builder and distributor of premium specialty trailers — acquired a seven-year lease on a 136,000-square-foot building at 2526 W. New York Ave., just west of the CSX railroad tracks. The company is beginning to hire welders and other workers, with a goal of having about 100 employees in early 2022.
Conn’s Inc., a specialty retailer of furniture, mattresses, home appliances and consumer electronics, opened a 42,000-square-foot HomePlus showroom store on Saxon Boulevard in Orange City in late June. It was the ninth Florida store for the Houston-based retailer, which operates 154 stores across 15 states.
A 9-year-old California company that grows and sells medical marijuana began operations on the DeLand Municipal Airport in August. Cookies, founded in 2012 in the San Francisco area, bought the 400,000-square-foot former Brunswick plant at 2000 Brunswick Lane for about $10 million. Cookies plans to add another 200,000 square feet in the near future, with a total investment of about $100 million.
And in November, Spectre Powerboats, a high-performance pleasure-boat design and manufacturing company, relocated to Volusia County from central Ohio. Spectre is currently configuring its new 26,000-square-foot facility near the DeLand Municipal Airport and hopes to commence operations soon.
Smaller businesses also did their share of newsmaking in 2021.
A second Domino’s Pizza opened at 2135 Howland Blvd. in Deltona in early February for carryout and delivery. The outlet joins one at 1675 Providence Blvd. Both Deltona restaurants, as well as one in Orange City and another in DeLand, are owned by franchisee Tony Reulbach.
Pedego Electric Bikes DeLand, owned by Chuck and Nancy Zirbel, opened in March on the north end of the Victoria Square Shopping Center. The company offers a line of 20 premium quality electric bikes of different styles and colors, suited for the needs of every customer.
Construction finally started in April on a new animal hospital east of DeLand after a nearly yearlong hiatus because of the pandemic. Animal Emergency Hospital DeLand — a 7,500-square-foot clinic at 2100 E. New York Ave., on the southeast corner with Kepler Road — is now scheduled to open in early 2022.
While DeLand Cyclery announced in March plans to close its doors in Downtown DeLand, owner Ted Beiler caved to public demand and instead moved the business to a new location five blocks away. The shop, which opened in July, is now at the corner of North Delaware Avenue and West Michigan Avenue.
Deltona Fountains, a shopping complex near the intersection of Deltona Boulevard and Enterprise Road in Volusia County’s most-populous city, was sold to buyers who shelled out $4.2 million for the retail center. Both the seller and the buyer are out-of-county corporations.
This year, the West Volusia Chapter of the NAACP and DeLand Pride worked together to create a fully searchable directory of Black-owned businesses throughout Volusia County. The online directory went live in early October.
Bee Realty Corp opened a branch office in Downtown DeLand in October after an addition to and extensive remodeling of the building at 237 N. Woodland Blvd. It’s the second office in DeLand for owner Bee Powell, who also has a branch office in Deltona.
And in November, the DeLand Sport Aviation Showcase took flight after a year off due to the coronavirus. The four-day event on the DeLand Municipal Airport showcased all kinds of sport aviation people, planes and products.
These are just highlights of what happened in West Volusia this year. Space limitations preclude us from providing more, but tourism did well this year, as did homebuilders and other businesses big and small. May all that success carry over into 2022. Happy New Year!