The Central Florida Development Council hosted an informational preview event on Monday to continue the process of outlining a vision for the Central Florida Innovation District (CFID) and seek feedback.

Community leaders, CFDC investors, area landowners and the public were invited to the meeting at Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland. The goal of the meeting was to continue the process of getting input, not make any binding decisions, change land-use plans or the like.

“We shared the vision of the district. This area encompasses roughly 3,000 acres out of the 2,000 square miles of Polk,” said CFDC President and CEO Sean Malott. “It’s part of the conversation. We’ve met privately with many of the landowners and they see the vision.”

The district will provide a variety of opportunities to diversify its economy, leveraging major state investments and building upon the cutting-edge technology being developed at Florida Polytechnic University and tested at SunTrax, the Florida Department of Transportation’s new 475-acre testing facility along the Polk Parkway. The cities of Auburndale and Lakeland, along with Polk County, have signed an agreement to work together to develop a vision for the district, which roughly covers the area from Interstate 4 south along both sides of the Polk Parkway.

At the meeting, which about 75 people attended, CFDC Chairman Jake Polumbo provided an overview of the district and why it will be important for Polk County.

“The district will attract start-ups and other expanding companies, who will then use talent already in the area from Florida Polytechnic University, Polk State College and other Polk education institutions. Plus, new and innovative technology will be developed and tested locally on SunTrax facilities.” Polumbo said. “Over the next few years, those new companies will create more and more high-skill, high-wage jobs and then hire our graduates, faculty and research teams — retaining some of the high-demand, low-supply talent we are producing right here in Polk County.”

Malott added: “We are sharing a big, bold vision for the area, and it can be a little intimidating, but the initiative has been met with positivity and optimism. There are so many possibilities ahead.”

Florida Poly President Dr. Randy Avent said the vision for the CFID that the group has developed so far is “spot on.”

Gary Ralston, a local real estate broker with SVN Saunders, Ralston, Dantzler said “nowhere else in the nation is there this much undeveloped acreage around a university that we can turn into an economic powerhouse.”

Malott used emerging and innovative industries — such as health-tech, information science and engineering, advanced manufacturing, and mobility — to lay out the Innovation District, Avent said. “The CFDC supports the direction the university is going and the university supports the concept around the Innovation District.”

County Commission Chairman George Lindsey is pleased to see the county and cities collaborating, and seeking input from stakeholders.

“We are at a critical point in the process,” Lindsey said. “We are working together to ensure we keep the momentum moving forward while seeking forward-looking segments to diversify our economy.”

Brad Lunz, president of The Lunz Group, and Tim Hoeft, managing principal of Straughn Trout Architects, were commissioned to collaborate on a vision plan for the district. The development goal for the area is to maximize investment synergies and community values along the high-tech Interstate 4 corridor.

The cities, county and the CFDC will continue to seek additional feedback on the district as consensus is gained to adopt a unified, multijurisdictional vision.

For additional information about this topic or how to become a partner with the Central Florida Development Council, please contact Lindsay Zimmerman at lindsay@cfdc.org.

Learn more about the Central Florida Innovation District:

Taking the First Steps Towards Designing an Innovation District

Cities and County Working Together to Establish Central Florida Innovation District

Visioning the Central Florida Innovation District