Byline: TIMOTHY J. GIBBONS
The mammoth chilling plant hung from the crane outside the Northside factory, slowly inching down onto a waiting truck.
A few hours later -- and a few miles down the highway -- another crane picked up the plant, one of the largest ever made, and put it on a ship bound for Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where it will eventually help cool houses and hotels on a man-made island that is being called the Eighth Wonder of the World.
For Jacksonville-based company The Stellar Group, the unit's 7,670-mile journey is a big step in the company's own journey into the international marketplace.
Stellar, which made its name doing architectural and contracting work, had focused on the United States and Latin America. Now, company officials said, they're moving out into the rest of the world, looking for contracts throughout the Middle East and elsewhere. The company has already opened an office in Dubai, with 15 employees.
The giant modular cooling units that began the voyage to Dubai this week are a step toward that goal, said Kurt Liebendorfer, Stellar's senior vice president of power and utilities. Just over two years ago, Stellar did a small, $25 million installation project in Saudi Arabia, giving it a sense of the business available.
"It got us in the region," Liebendorfer said. "We quickly learned about Dubai and all the exciting things going on there and started to peruse some opportunities."
That included bidding on the district cooling project for part of the man-made island known as the Palm Jumeirah. That island, and two similar ones, are being built in the shape of a date palm tree and will support luxury hotels, homes, theme parks and other tourist attractions. …