Economic Yearbook 2007
Focusing on SRI International and a Merck venture.
DISTRIBUTION: Because of its central location, the county is home to numerous distribution centers for major companies, including Wal-Mart, Haverty's, JC Penney, Home Depot, Coca-Cola, Rooms To Go and Southern Wine & Spirits.
JOBS: "The unemployment rate this year is running in the 3s, compared to
the 20s back in the 1980s. Here we are today, basically fully employed. We came out of the doldrums because of our place in the state. We have Tampa Bay on one side and the Orlando region on the other. How can we fail? We'd have to work at screwing things up," says Ron Morrow, executive director of the East Polk County Committee of 100.
LOOKING AHEAD: Jim DeGennaro, director of business development for the Central Florida Development Council of Polk County, says his office is working with several other major companies interested in opening facilities in Polk County. "Within a 100-mile radius, we have 8.5 million people," DeGennaro says. "Atlanta can't say that." ... Polk's overall industrial vacancy rate for the first quarter of 2006 was 3.8%, placing it second in the nation behind South Los Angeles, which had a vacancy rate of 2.7%. Tampa's rate was 4.6%, and Miami's was 6.7%. "It's an active time for us," DeGennaro says.
? Marshall Goodman, on the job for less than a year as vice president and CEO of the University of South Florida's Lakeland campus, was singled out in the November 2006 issue of Campus Technology magazine as one the nation's five best "tech-savvy chief academic officers." Goodman had been provost at San Jose State University. He is helping to oversee the university's long-range plans to build a campus at the intersection of I-4 and the Polk Parkway in northeast Lakeland.
? In 1981, Kegel operated out of a garage and manufactured one product: A bowling lane cleaner called "The Key." Now, the Lake Wales firm has more than 74,000 square feet of high-tech manufacturing space, where it makes lane-conditioning machines and other machinery.
? Hanson Pipe & Precast plans to open its new $45-million plant in Winter Haven by this summer. Executives say the plant will use robots to help build concrete pipes for drainage projects. The 171,000-sq.-ft. facility will employ 50.
? Plans are moving forward for CSX's $100-million Integrated Logistics Center on 1,250 acres in Winter Haven. The sophisticated hub, one of only a few like it in the nation, will transfer and store cargo.