2012 Florida Economic Yearbook
Publix is expanding its distribution center. [Photo: Publix]
It's starting feel a little bit like pre-recession 2007 in Polk County, says Claudia Tritton, business development director at the Lakeland Economic Development Council. "Things are picking up," she says. Some evidence: Polk-based Publix Super Markets is nearly doubling the size of its 590,000-sq.-ft. County Line Road distribution center; Coca-Cola is spending $99 million to expand its 720,000-sq.-ft. juice production facility in Polk County and create 60 jobs; Texas-based Mission Foods is expected to spend $23 million to open a 168,000-sq.-ft. warehouse in Lakeland; New Jersey's Matheson Tri-Gas is building a $40-million gas plant in east Lakeland. On the retail side, Big Lots will open two locations in Polk County this year.
Businesses to Watch
» SteriPack USA: The Ireland-based company, which makes flexible medical packaging, chose Lakeland to open its first U.S. production facility, expected to open this summer.
» Legoland Florida: The Winter Haven theme park — located on the site of the old Cypress Gardens attraction — is planning to open a water park component this summer.
|Polk Population: 614,566|
|Population Growth Rate (2008-12): 0.82%|
|Population by Age:|
|Per Capita Income: $34,540|
|Polk County Consumer Bankruptcies|
|Source: National Bankruptcy Research Center|
Thecounty'smanufacturers are "holding up pretty well in these tough times," says Michael McHugh, manager of economic development at the Hernando County Office of Business Development. He says sign maker Accuform, for example, continues to expand. The company employs 245. The county, meanwhile, is looking to attract a cluster of aviation maintenance companies to its Hernando County Airport and Business Center. McHugh thinks better times are ahead. "For the last 90 to 120 days, we have seen activity levels pick up — more people contacting us for information and more companies making plans or considering expansions," he says. "That is always a precursor to action. We're encouraged for 2012."
|Hernando Population: 187,719|
|Population Growth Rate (2008-12): 2.15%|
|Population by Age:|
|Per Capita Income: $32,610|