Economic yearbook 2010
High-speed rail will boost a slowly evolving turnaround.
Lakeland /Polk County
It’s no joke, says Tom Patton, that a good portion of Polk County’s economy will soon be built with Legos. Patton, executive director of the Central Florida Development Council, says the new Legoland theme park, set to replace the defunct Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven within 18 months, is expected to create 1,000 jobs, attract 2 million visitors each year and have an annual economic impact of $459 million. Three other bright spots: A Polk County stop along the proposed Tampa-to-Orlando high-speed rail, the proposed CSX integrated logistics center in Winter Haven and the continuing growth of USF-Polytechnic. “Each one of those is a blockbuster,” Patton says.
Person to Watch
» When Marshall Goodman was the provost of San Jose State University during the early 2000s, he felt it was important for the students to collaborate and intern at nearby Google. As a result, he says 10% of Goggle’s computer engineers are San Jose State University graduates. Now vice president and CEO of USF-Polytechnic, Goodman has brought that same sense of academic-business partnership to central Florida. The school, for instance, came up with a program called e-portfolio, which allows potential employers to review a student’s school projects online. USF-Polytechnic also opened two business incubators in Lakeland last year with more possibly to come. “I call them applied learning classrooms,” he says. “Yes, we have an academic mission, but we also have an economic development mission. You don’t want to just educate individuals and graduate them. You want to graduate them into jobs in the community.”
Business to Watch
» WellDyneRx, a pharmacy benefit management company, opened a facility in Lakeland last year with more than 100 employees. This year, the Colorado based firm expects to expand its Polk County operation by nearly 600 people. The company spent $20 million to open the 66,000-sq.-ft. Lakeland facility.