Lifeguard Ambulance Service celebrated the completion of a new ambulance maintenance facility during a ribbon cutting ceremony and broke ground on its next expansion project Thursday.

"This is symbolism of a prosperous economy," said Jason Kimbrell, Regional Executive for Lifeguard Ambulance Service. "We have transformed growth over phases."

Construction of the new $830,000 fleet maintenance facility began Dec. 2011, after being funded with traditional lending sources and a substantial reinvestment into the business by owners John and Deborah Roche.

"It's going to bring in additional dollars to the community," Kimbrell said of the new facility. "We have a very dynamic business model that will increase and infuse tax dollars."

The Avalon location has become the fleet maintenance headquarters for the northwest Florida locations.

"We have one unit (ambulance) from that came in last night from Columbia County in 'limp mode,' meaning they didn't know what was wrong with it," Kimbrell said. "So we brought it here. It'll be here for about 30 days undergoing a bumper-to-bumper inspection to find out what's wrong."

Chief mechanic Richard Garrett said bringing the vehicles to this area will promote the local economy by supporting local businesses. The parts are sourced from local stores. They are not set up with a paint booth and will outsource that task to local paint and body shops.

The staff can perform all aspects of rebuilding the vehicles from the engine and transmission, to the upholstery, according to Garrett. The new facility features a 30,000 lb. lift that is capable of heavy loads, such as Sacred Heart's neonatal intensive care unit, specializing in the transport of newborn babies and pregnant mothers.

Garrett said its much more cost effective to refurbish the vehicles, when a new, standard ambulance costs $125,000. The maintenance shop can rebuild a vehicle and have it essentially brand new for $25,000 to $30,000. Specialty vehicles can cost much more, like the neonatal intensive care unit carrying a price tag of $265,000.

Local governmental representatives broke ground on the next phase of the project, which is set to begin immediately. The ambulance service will renovate the old maintenance building to expand their administrative capacity and have an area for training.

"The goal is to part the admin space is to build a leadership training lab," Kimbrell said. "EMS leaders from across the county could come here and learn what it takes to be successful in the industry. And of course, they would be staying in area hotels and stimulating the local economy."

Since August 2007, Lifeguard Ambulance Service has grown from 67 employees in the northwest Florida region to more than 170. The company received a Commission of Accreditation of Ambulance Services accreditation for meeting established standards of excellence set by state and local regulations.