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Bob Dean; Leisure Labs, LLC

Bob Dean

Leisure Labs, LLC

Bob Dean’s career sounds like a young boy’s dream job: a roller coaster manufacturer representative, traveling the world to sell rides to amusement parks. Dean left his desk job as a stockbroker in 1987 to join Omni Films International, which specialized in indoor virtual adventure rides. In 2000, seeing a chance to take on more clients, Dean ventured out to start his own company, Leisure Labs, LLC; he worked in his Sarasota home office and was the sole employee.

Now Dean has five employees and has sold products ranging from giant wooden roller coasters to kiddie rides to “almost every park you can name,” he says, including Disney, Six Flags, Universal Studios, Cedar Point and others—and that’s just in our country. He partnered with three manufacturers in Europe and one in the U.S., each specializing in a different type of ride. (Germans make the best steel coasters, Dean says, but “Italians dominate the kiddie ride market.”)

Since theme parks have to constantly offer new attractions to keep attendance up, demand is not going away. But the slow economy has turned attention to smaller rides, so Dean is focused on increasing his reach in newer markets in Asia and South America. “The roller coaster business is up and down,” he says. “Of course that’s the worst joke ever.”

 

Overheard

“If you go outside this state, we do not have a business brand.”

Enterprise Florida CEO Gray Swoope on Florida’s reputation as a business destination when he spoke at the Manatee Economic Development Corporation’s “Charting the Course” event.

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