AVON PARK — A new business involving a longtime, community-minded Avon Park family has opened in the City of Charm.
Steel Blue Fabrication began production last month of meter sets for the natural gas and propane gas markets in a building on County Road 17A.
According to Charles Devlin, who is one of the owners, Steel Blue is a spinoff of Devtech. That company, also located in Avon Park, is a provider of measurement and control products and systems such as gas meters, gauges, filters and valves.
“Devtech had a need for a facility to build these custom sets for our customers,” Devlin said.
“The main thing we’re doing is custom fabrication and assembly for our customers,” said John Paul Heston, another owner. “There is a lot of people that do thousands of pieces at a time. We’re doing custom, one-off fabrication for the gas utilities in Florida.”
“We’re the first fab shop of this type in Florida that just caters to the gas industry,” Devlin said. “There’s some welding shops that have done work for them, but not these assemblies like we’re building.”
Devlin believes that because he said it is a “pretty tight-knit industry” and they know all of their competitors. He added that Heston and Steve Baltzley, who handles sales in North Florida for the company, are always talking with their customers and getting information from them.
“Somebody opens their door as a new business; we know about it the next day,” he said.
Devlin came up with the name for the business. Steel, of course, is tied in with the product that is being made. He said blue is associated with natural gas as the color of its flame.
There is also another reason for using blue.
“It also sort of ties to one of our main causes we’re going to adopt is ‘Back the Blue’ – law enforcement,” Devlin said. “It’s a movement across the country that instead of blaming everything on them to support them ...”
Like starting up many businesses, Devlin said it has been a challenge to get it set up.
“There are so many different pieces and components to this,” he said, referring to the meter set. “I mean there is like 20, it doesn’t look like it, but there are flanges, valves.”
The 10-acre site where Steel Blue is located had to be rezoned from agriculture to commercial. There is a 5,000-square-foot building there that Devlin said was empty for several years. He noted that the land was zoned ag with an exception for the building. He said that the property was owned by Highlands Golf, which used to build golf courses. Highlands Golf worked on its heavy equipment in the building.
“We bought it from the previous owners with the contingency in the contract that we get the rezoning,” Devlin said. “And we did. The county staff worked very closely and (was) very supportive.”
They plan to expand and will likely be hiring a few more welders by the end of this year.
“We’re happy to be bringing another business to the community and creating jobs over time,” Devlin said.
He said Devtech is involved in the community and supports the Avon Park Champions Club and the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program at Avon Park High School. Devlin added that Steel Blue will also be involved.
Devlin said his family has been in Avon Park since 1977.