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Eastern Shore manufacturer heads to Dover

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Shore Industries owner, left, gives Kent County Commissioner Allan Angel, Kent Economic Partnership Executive Director Linda Parkowski, and Sen. Trey Paradee a tour of the new facility in the Dover Aero Park. | PHOTO COURTESY KENT COUNTY LEVY COURT.

DOVER — A shade sail and vinyl porch enclosure manufacturer has relocated its headquarters to the state capital, eyeing a gradual expansion of operations in the foreseeable future.

Shore Industries has agreed on a year-long lease for a 10,000-square-foot building in Dover Aero Park next to the Civil Air Terminal off Route 1, and has the option of purchasing the property once the lease expires. The manufacturer brought 16 jobs to 26 Starlifter Ave. when it opened on March 1, but that figure may quintuple depending on how business ramps up.

“We’re a small company, but Shore Industries saw 800% growth last year, and we’re on pace to break that this year. That’s even before we dialed it up,” Shore Industries owner Mike Pugh told the Delaware Business Times. “We can see having 60 to 80 staff members, based on what we’re seeing.”

Founded in 2009 on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Shore Industries first started as a custom marine canvas venture, manufacturing boat covers and curtains. The company then grew to shade sails, or an awning that uses a flexible frame, for marine, commercial and residential use.

The company is now the largest original equipment manufacturer (OEM) provider for shade systems and has an exclusive contract for Makefast, a marine product company based in Wales, U.K.

Shore Industries later launched another company, Porch Enclosure Systems, to sell custom vinyl porch enclosures for homes and businesses from coast to coast. Major clients include Clemson University, Facebook, Texas Roadhouse and more.

Pugh said he started the business on his own property in Denton, Md., but when it boomed, he eventually started looking for more floor space. He eventually settled on nearby commercial space on a highway, but Pugh wanted a more direct capacity to expand.

“We’ve been working with our county and Maryland for a while, but I felt like we were pretty much on our own. But then I reached out to Sussex and Kent counties and it was like night and day. They were incredibly supportive,” Pugh told DBT.

The main reason why Shore Industries ended up in Dover? Kent Economic Partnership (KEP) Executive Director Linda Parkowski.

“She was aggressive, she thought outside the box and kept exploring options,” Pugh said. “With a small company, I wear a lot of hats and can be hard to reach. But she never gave up.”

The Starlifter Avenue facility was “a bit of a curveball” due to its small size, but Pugh said the need for low ceilings, climate control and the ability to grow the footprint was attractive. He’s in discussions with Becker Morgan this week about what that may involve.

“We’re unique in that we don’t need a lot of heavy equipment. We have sewing machines, but it’s important to have the material in a controlled climate. So 20 foot-ceilings aren’t cost-effective,” Pugh said. “But we need the room for a welding shop for the shades, and shipping things out.”

On Parkowski’s part, she attributes Kent County’s success to the Rockport Economic Analysis Study her office commissioned in 2018. The study highlights the county’s location and inventory of open land and available warehouse space, making it prime for small to medium-sized manufacturing firms.

“Shore Industries’ relocation to central Delaware proved the data correct,” Parkowski said. “Central Delaware has all the right components for manufacturing success in the region.”  

As Shore Industries settles in Delaware, the manufacturer may be on the precipice of another major deal. Makefast is in discussions with Shore Industries to transition its marine shade business to America, with Shore forming its own company to oversee its operations. The move would allow Makefast to ship to stateside customers to avoid major shipping delays and possible tariffs triggered by the pandemic and the United Kingdom leaving the European Union.

State and county leaders touted Shore Industries’ arrival and the success of KEP in honing in on a burgeoning sector of small to medium manufacturers. Sen. Trey Paradee (D-Dover) noted that Parkowski and her office was building on a great track record, with wins like Duratech, Shoreline Vinyl and U.S. Corrugated last year.

“Each of these small- and medium-sized companies are huge wins that will provide stable, good-paying jobs to Kent County residents for years to come,” Paradee said in a prepared statement. “Each one of these companies relocating here also proves to other manufacturers that – even in a pandemic – Kent County is open for business.”

“The commissioners of Levy Court and our county administrator realize the importance of economic development, especially in manufacturing as one of the key elements in building a prosperous, vibrant, employment community. We welcome Shore Industries to the Kent County business family where we will continue to build upon our future growth,” added Kent County  Commissioner Allan Angel, chair of the county’s Economic Development Commission.

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