When Bill Morean moved Jabil Circuit from Detroit to St. Petersburg 30 years ago, he wanted to capitalize on the area's relatively cheap land, strong manufacturing workforce and proximity to what was a large IBM Florida operation.
Today, only a fraction of Jabil's manufacturing is local. Its operations span 33 countries in industries ranging from health care to energy.
Jabil's evolution from its Michigan automotive industry roots to computers and, now, a myriad of fields shows a successful Fortune 500 company doesn't have to be next door to its biggest clients, especially if they are spread across the world.
As a new upper-management team takes over this month, executives say the $17 billion company is well-positioned for growth in health care and "green" technology.Longtime CEO Tim Main replaced Morean as board chairman Friday.
Chief operating officer Mark Mondello is now chief executive. Both have a lengthy Jabil history.Main joined Jabil in 1987 as a production manager. He became CEO in 2000. Mondello came from the aerospace industry and joined Jabil in 1992. He became chief operating officer in 2002.
The son of William E. Morean, one of Jabil's founding partners, Bill Morean retired after 35 years at Jabil. In his tenure, he oversaw Jabil's transformation from a modest player assembling circuit boards for General Motors to a global company offering advanced manufacturing for major brands such as Hewlett Packard and Cisco Systems.
Jabil employs 165,000 people making touch screens for smart phones in Asia, defense technology in St. Petersburg and computer circuit boards in worldwide factories. It made a significant expansion into the health care industry, acquiring Nypro, a Massachusetts-based manufacturer of plastics and packaging.
Jabil's mainstay has been electronic circuit boards. But it has expanded to making equipment for John Deere farm machines, home energy meters and iPhone nonelectronic components.The key to Jabil's future growth is the thing that fueled its past success: finding ways to apply its expertise to new industries, said Main.
Jabil's St. Petersburg plant laid off workers in recent years because of shrinking defense business. Looming defense cuts don't bode well for it. But rising costs in Asia may drive production of bulky gear back to the United States, Main said.
Jabil seems firmly rooted in St. Petersburg. The quality of life makes it ideal to attract and retain corporate talent, company officials say.