In a perfect world, every new lead that comes to the attention of the Haines City Economic Development Council would result in a company setting up new or branch operations in northeast Polk County. But, as reality would have it, the business of attracting new business to a particular locale is a mix of exciting success stories and tales of recruitment that just wasn’t meant to be.
As president and chief executive officer of the Haines City EDC, Cyndi Jantomaso understands that. She and all who share in the mission of the EDC revel with every new business or industry that comes to greater Haines City, but they also find satisfaction when, through work with other parties, some of their misses become hits for other areas of Polk County.
For Jantomaso, work for the greatest possible economic good is one of the key benefits of the relationship between the Haines City EDC and the Central Florida Development Council (CFDC), Polk County’s primary economic development organization.
“It’s a great partnership,” Jantomaso says about the Haines City EDC and CFDC, “and it’s all for Polk County.”
While Haines City EDC receives business inquiries directly and develops leads of its own, Jantomaso says the CFDC is the EDC’s primary source of business development leads that flow from Enterprise Florida, the official economic organization for the Sunshine State.
“Obviously, my job is to bring inquiring companies to Haines City, but if I can’t fit them into our property inventory, my first phone call is to CFDC to keep them in Polk County,” Jantomaso says.
Formed in 2002, the Haines City EDC is a private 501(c)6 not-for-profit organization. According to a statement on its website, the council’s mission is to build a diverse economy “in concert with government, investors, educational, and economic development partners.”
“We have a contract with the city of Haines City to provide the service of economic development for the city and northeast Polk County as a whole,” Jantomaso says.
Jantomaso says the Haines City EDC is structured much like the CFDC. It’s managed by a board of directors from the public and private sectors and is funded by companies and organizations that invest at various financial levels. Some of the EDC’s investment partners also are investors with the CFDC. The EDC’s highest-level contributor is the city of Haines City.
Succeeding Paul Senft, Jantomaso became the EDC’s president and CEO in October 2014. She started with the organization in February 2011.
“I have four bosses,” she says, “the (board’s) executive committee — the chairwoman, vice chairwoman, treasurer and secretary.”
The properties the EDC can showcase for prospective new companies and industries branch out from downtown Haines City area (around the site of the EDC office on North Sixth Street), to the south, east and west of the city, and as far north as the Davenport area.
For anyone considering greater Haines City as a new place to do business, the EDC’s list of positives has several bullet items, including a rarely granted 20-year water-pumping permit for the city, the city’s new wastewater treatment facility, top-flight recreational facilities, and the Haines City Trail.
Topping the list, though, is the huge Haines City Industrial Park, located on the city’s south side at the intersection of state roads 17 and 544.
“The infrastructure is in all place in the industrial park; its shovel ready,” Jantomaso says.
The park’s location along State Road 544 and in the heart of Florida’s Interstate 4-U.S. Highway 27 corridor is “very important,” she says, as plans develop for the construction of the Central Polk Parkway.
The six-lane toll road basically would loop south from the Polk Parkway to Bartow, parallel State Road 60 east to the Waverly area, and then go north running to the east of State Road 17 to Interstate 4.
One of the Central Polk Parkway’s “cloverleaf” interchanges is planned for State Road 544, Jantomaso says, making the nearby industrial park even more attractive to potential investors. In addition, she says, a 2.8-mile-long north-south rail spur connects the industrial park to a main CSX railroad line in the heart of Haines City. Another plus is the park’s proximity to the new CSX Central Florida Intermodal Logistics Center, a commercial truck-rail transportation hub on the south side of Winter Haven, near S.R. 60.
The Haines City Industrial Park already has a number of tenants, including Hanson Paver Products, Jain Irrigation, Aercon Florida, Parex, MBM FoodService Distribution, Stefco Industries, TrusSteel, S&R Logistics, Sofidel America and Aldi Inc. Many of the companies manufacture and distribute products for residential and commercial construction; others are involved in the food industry and in warehousing. In most cases, their products can be used by a market of almost 9 million people within a 100-mile radius of the industrial park.
Jantomaso says an announcement about another tenant for the Haines City Industrial Park is expected by the end of the year.
“It’s pretty big,” she says. “We brought them in to consider the industrial park and have been working with the CFDC ever since to bring it to fruition.”
It’s a prime example of the kind of positive partnership the Haines City EDC has with the CDFC.
“We work really well together,” Jantomaso says. “We’re a unified voice in economic development and attracting businesses to Polk County.”