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Florida Celebrates Economic Development Week

January 23, 2024 News

As Polk County continues to grow, the Central Florida Development Council continues its mission to attract new companies and retain those finding success within the community.

Manufacturing companies continue to find success in Polk County. A robust talent pipeline, business friendly climate, available land and access to 300 miles of rail are keys to Polk competitivness. The recent Advanced Drainage Systems (ADS) announcement, bringing 200 new jobs to Lake Wales, along with a $250 million capital expenditure showcases this well.

Projects like ADS are indicative of the strongest sector expanding within the market, said CFDC Senior Vice President and COO Lindsay Zimmerman. “Manufacturing continues to be a strong sector for Polk County. They generally bring a huge capital expenditure, which adds to our tax rolls. And they do not use many services.” 

And, in line with the CFDC’s strategic initiatives, the new jobs are technology related. The CFDC’s tech-enabled project activity represents 53% of the new jobs within active and won projects as well as 82% of the capital investment.  

Florida Economic Development Week

Jan. 22, 2024, kicks off Florida Economic Development Week, a chance for local agencies to share the work they’ve done to keep Florida’s economy moving forward.  The CFDC serves as Polk County’s economic development agency to attract new business to the area and to support local companies that want to expand. 

Economic developers from across the state with Sean Malott, President and CEO of CFDC and Dave Shepp, CFDC Vice-Chair and Partner with The Southern Group.

It often works with its partners in the county’s cities. For instance, when founder and CEO Alex Lucio was looking for a location for his new manufacturing plant, Assure Infusions, a collaborative approach helped land the project in the hands of the Bartow Economic Development Council. Assure is now building a new advanced manufacturing plant there that is scheduled to open in the first half of 2024. 

Additional companies who invested in the county include Publix and Coca Cola, which expanded, and newcomers like LowCarbon and Kottke Trucking. 

POLK’S ROBUST TALENT PIPELINE 

Polk County ranked No. 9 overall in Lightcast’s annual Talent Attraction Scorecard, coming in No. 4 in migration, No. 21 in job growth, No. 50 in skilled job growth and No. 72 in education attainment. Along with job growth is population growth – Polk has grown from 725,000 in 2020 to an estimated 797,616 in 2023. (Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research) About 100 people a day move here. 

“That volume of people moving to Polk County allows for our continued success in terms of available labor force,” Zimmerman said. “Labor is one of the leading factors companies are looking at when they decide where to relocate. Our population – and its growth — will continue to drive our diversification of industry.” 

The county’s seven institutions of higher education work closely with business and industry to ensure the courses and degrees they offer remain relevant. For instance, in 2023:  

  • Polk State College started offering an associate degree in hospitality & Tourism Management that addresses the needs of Polk County, the region and the state.  
  • Webber University opened its new Health Sciences Center, home to its Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Nursing and B.S. in Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) programs, giving students access to cutting-edge learning facilities and equipment. Webber is looking to graduate quality healthcare professionals who can fill the growing.  

FUTURE ECONOMIC SUCCESS  

CFDC President & CEO Sean Malott appreciate the willingness of the county’s elected leaders to continue fostering a business friendly climate and exploring ways to invest in infrastructure like roads, water and broadband. “Their attitude toward business sets the table for companies to be successful in the county and the cities,” Malott said. 

Polk’s ideal location, uniqically positioned between two major metros, offers companies competitive land and lease rates and access to more than 10 million consumers within 100 miles. We are seeing companies begin their searches within either metro and then gravitate to our more central location said Malott.

Malott also shared, “we are seeing what I believe is higher interest from international companies. It will be interesting to watch how that plays out.”

“In addition we are hopeful we might also begin to see companies make decisions quicker. In the last couple of years, companies have come in, shown interest and moved on without making a decision. Hopefully we will see a shift in that, which will be good.” 

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