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Logistics Remaining Strong and Cold Storage Growing in Polk County on National Logistics Day

June 28, 2024 News

Polk County is considered the epicenter of logistics in Florida. Located in the center of the state, there is access to two major airports and four more in the county. There are 300 plus miles of rail, three seaports within 90 miles, dozens of major roadways, and available land at affordable prices and more. 

Longstanding Polk County logistics companies like Saddle Creek Logistics, Publix, Amazon, and the Ruthvens have truly kept the area thriving and efficient. Cold storage businesses have also become a great commodity, led by companies like Kottke Trucking/ True Blue Manufacturing and RealCold.

With June 28 being National Logistics Day, we want to celebrate and highlight these companies for all they have done.

Central Florida’s regional connectivity

Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA), an organization for third-party logistics professionals, celebrates the logistics industry during June. This is the 6th Annual National Logistics Day. It is a chance to “recognize and appreciate the importance of the logistics industry in the global and our national economies.” 

The TIA website defines logistics as “the movement of products or services to a designated location at an agreed upon time, cost and condition.” It points to more than 15 million trucks, including 2 million tractor trailers, that operate on U.S. highways each year. And, about 11 million shipping containers that enter the country.  

Logistics in Polk

Polk County is home to a handful of top-tier logistics companies.

Saddle Creek Logistics is an asset-based third-party logistics provider in Lakeland that has been in business since 1966. With millions of square feet of warehouse space, Saddle Creek provides many fulfillment options for clients. They offer valuable services like packaging, kitting, display building, embroidery, engraving and more.

Amazon is a household name across the country, but also holds a special place in Polk County. Large Amazon Fulfillment Centers are housed in both Lakeland and Auburndale. Amazon’s air cargo hub, Amazon Air, is also positioned at the Lakeland Linder International Airport.

Any efficient and successful logistics company needs warehouses and facilities that are of highest quality. The Ruthvens work hard to provide warehousing options for companies in Polk County. The Ruthvens have been around since 1957, and have ample expertise in industrial, manufacturing and distribution warehouse spaces. They offer anywhere from 1,000 and over 200,000 square foot spaces- whatever meets client needs.

Cold Storage on the Rise in Polk

Along with traditional logistics, supply chain and distribution methods, cold storage space has become a prominent and important necessity in Central Florida. Additionally cold storage logistics projects are also typically more involved. This means higher levels of capital investment and heavy power consumers, both of which equate to increased tax revenue for communities.

“Logistics continue to be a strong sector for our county. As we continue to grow and develop, it’s exciting to watch this segment diversify,” said Sean Malott, President & CEO of the Central Florida Development Council. “We welcome Kottke Trucking/True Blue Warehousing and RealCold Storage and anticipate continued growth in cold storage.”  

Kottke Trucking/ True Blue Warehousing

Kottke Trucking started 86 years ago in Buffalo Lake, Minnesota. It is a third-generation company. They moved to Florida in 2016 when they bought a company in Wildwood, where it still has a terminal. Wanting to continue to grow, it answered an inquiry and moved ahead, purchasing Wayne T. Fellows from the Fellows family in Davenport in July 2019.  

Fellows was leasing cold storage at the time, and Kottke knew it wanted its own such facility. After looking for property, it found the right place in Lake Alfred in August 2023. The Lake Alfred location now has 16 dock doors and 20,000 square feet of floor space. This helps greatly in its mission to deliver world-class logistics services. 

During construction of its cold storage facility, Kottke hired several local contractors for ground work, concrete, refrigeration systems and other components of the building – all contributing to the local economy. “Today, we are continuing to hire local people to work in our warehouse and operations center as well as mechanics and drivers for our trucks,” said Zach Little, chief operating officer for Kottke Trucking Inc./True Blue Warehousing

“We are continuing to grow,” Little said. “We have cold storage available in Central Florida. Customers can be assured of cold chain compliance as the doors of the trailers open into our 34-degree building. So, there is no Florida heat pulled into the back of the trailer when it is backed into the dock. We are looking to expand our building by another 80,000 square feet as soon as there is enough interest to do so.” 

RealCold

RealCold is building a 376,000-square-foot facility along Interstate 4 in Auburndale. This building will serve more than 11.1 million people in a 100-mile radius from the Lakeland|Winter Haven MSA. The facility is expected to be operational in the first quarter of 2025. 

Video breakdown of the Lakeland cold facility, scheduled to complete in early 2025

The company chose Auburndale because “Florida’s importance in the food supply chain can’t be overstated,” said James Chambers, senior director of marketing.  

He gave three reasons why: 

  1. “It serves as a critical hub. Given the state is home to multiple ports on the Gulf and the Atlantic that facilitate the import and export of food and produce largely from Central and South America.” 
  2. “Many food manufacturers either are headquartered or have significant operations in Florida. A large portion of these require refrigerated or frozen storage.” 
  3. “We recognized that the existing temperature-controlled infrastructure was insufficient to support the population growth the state has witnessed in the past few years. Especially in MSAs like Orlando, which has ranked in the Top 5 fastest-growing metropolitan areas. In fact, Lakeland itself has undergone enormous growth as both people and companies have been drawn to the area, enriching an already talented community and workforce.” 

A Prime Location

The company also picked Lakeland for its talented and educated workforce and the ease in which it could do business with local governments. “We recognized that Polk County encourages and embraces development, and they have been an ideal partner helping us navigate the various processes.” 

RealCold’s project is contributing to economic development in Polk County. 

“The development of our temperature-controlled warehouse is an extensive project. One that requires significant capital deployment and a dependence on skilled local contractors and construction personnel for many elements of the build-out,” Chambers said. “Once completed in Q1 of 2025, the location will employ 150 members of the community and surrounding area.” 

To watch construction, check out RealCold’s live webcam here.

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