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Is Southern Apopka Becoming an Industrial Park for the Sake of Jobs? Part 2


Part 2 of a 3 Part Series

About this series – This is the second of a three-part series about Ordinance #2469. At a December 16th City Council meeting, this ordinance caused quite a stir. The proposal is to change the zoning of a 10 acre parcel in Southern Apopka from Parks and Recreation to Light Industrial (I1 Industrial). The Apopka Voice will take a close look at all sides of this issue over the next three days. What made this simple re-zoning ordinance such a hot-button issue?

Today, we focus on the actual business which triggered the proposal; the explanation of what a Small Business Administration (SBA) HUB Zone is; and why it is important to that business and to Apopka. Part three (tomorrow) will feature the property itself and how the residents and leaders of Southern Apopka feel about it and other industrial projects in the area. Yesterday, we looked at the contentious meeting that ultimately tabled consideration of the ordinance until January 20th.

AERO-TEL WIRE AND HARNESS: Heavy Manufacturing or Light Industrial?


Tony Donatto has a passion for his business. If you ask him about it, you will learn a lot about Aero-Tel Wire Harness. If you ask him what time it is, you will learn a lot about Aero-Tel.

His pride is apparent.

According to Donatto, he is the person swapping a piece of land he owns in Apopka for the land on Cleveland Street under consideration for re-zoning to light industrial. Aero-Tel is the business he will consider re-locating from his Orlando location to Apopka.

His dream is to move from a 10,000 square foot rental space in Orlando to a 20,000 square foot freestanding building where he can increase his production and hire additional employees. He estimates hiring as many as 100 for the proposed Apopka location.

“There are no commitments between the city and me,” says Donatto. “But if we can put this together, it could be a win/win for Apopka and for Aero-Tel.”

Donatto founded Aero-Tel Wire Harness in 1999, and has been at the same location on Silver Star Road for the past 10 years. Aero-Tel employs more than 30 people and provide electrical-wire harnesses to businesses and the federal government for power distribution and communications.

That is the short answer.

The longer version is that Aero-Tel is a very diverse company that manufactures electronic equipment and supplies, that offers wire harness and cable assemblies for avionics, ground support equipment, and telecommunications. The employees utilize automatic wire and sleeving cutters, wire strippers, crimping tools and dies, cable/harness testers, marking equipment, and heat shrink guns.

They have completed multi million dollar contracts for work with, and provide for, many companies including a $500,000 contract providing high precision cabling for the National Ignition Facility in California.

Aero-Tel has secured more than $25 million in HUBZone government contracts since 1999. But if Donatto is able to expand his business, he estimates his contracts will exceed $100 million in the next 10 years.

But being located on a HUBZone is crucial to his business model.

* * *


The Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) Contracting Program encourages small businesses to locate in and hire employees from economically disadvantaged areas of the United States. Companies participating in the program can receive competitive advantages in winning federal contracts. The Small Business Administration (SBA) regulates and implements the program.

A business must meet the following criteria to become certified as a HUBZone company:

• It must be a ‘small business’ according to the size standards based on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).

• It must be at least 51% owned and controlled by citizens of the United States (or a community development corporation, an agricultural cooperative, or an Indian tribe).

• Its principal office (where the greatest number of employees perform their work, excluding contract sites) must be located in a designated HUBZone area.

• At least 35% of the total workforce must reside in a designated HUBZone area.

Here is a short video about HUBZones: SBA's HUBZone program

* * *

Much of Southern Apopka is in a HUB Zone. The property Donatto bought in 2012 was originally in HUBZone 175.01, but because of improvements to the economy and unemployment figures, that zone was eliminated by the SBA.

His property was annexed to the City of Apopka in August of 2015. During the application process, the City of Apopka became aware of his HUBZone certification and ability to creat jobs in the local area. Donatto was then asked if he would consider swapping land he owns in Apopka for the land in the HUBZone in the city of Apopka.

That was the reason he was approached by the City of Apopka to consider trading parcels.

Apopka's current HUBZone is South of 441, East of Bradshaw, West of Sheeler and North of Cleveland.

The subject land off Cleveland Street is in a HUB Zone (176). Donatto has 18 months left on his lease in Orlando, so the summer of 2017 is the target date for moving his business.

Despite its diversity in products, Donatto says Aero-Tel is a very clean, environmentally friendly business.

“OSHA reviewed our levels of chemicals in the air,” said Donatto. “They were so low they didn’t register on the monitoring equipment.”

Donatto believes his business would be a good neighbor to fellow businesses or residential homes in the proximity of Aero-Tel. “There are minimal noise levels inside the building and no exterior noise,” said Donatto. Most of our deliveries come from FedEx or UPS, with occasional deliveries by semi-trailers.”

There is a mixture of employment positions at Aero-Tel from entry-level jobs up to Electrical Engineers. However, even an entry-level position comes with training for the employee to advance to better paying skilled positions.

He also said he was in discussions with the Orange County Public Schools to provide a training center for high school students and college age adults.

Tomorrow: The property and the angst of Apopka residents south of 441.

Use this link to learn more about Aero-Tel: AeroTel Wire Harness - WKMG Orlando Interview



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