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November 23, 2014

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South Central / Heartland: Powering Florida's Future

Energy sector emerges as driving force in affordable, accessible heartland.

Gary Shepherd | 9/24/2008

South Central/ Heartland Florida
Demographics for the South Central/ Heartland Region can be found at Business Florida's interactive map of Florida.
South Central/ Heartland Resources:

Universities/Colleges
• South Florida Community College

Airports
• Sebring Regional Airport

Florida’s South Central/Heartland is a sprawling, largely rural region with business assets that include excellent transportation, low overhead and a ready-to-go workforce. Positioned in the middle of the relatively narrow Florida peninsula, this 5,000-square-mile region comprising six counties offers a peaceful respite that is readily accessible and conveniently close to the state’s more heavily populated coastal urban areas. Agriculture is a primary economic engine here, while tourism is becoming increasingly important. And, in recent years, energy has emerged as a new focus with providers discovering how the region’s many attributes can be harnessed to help fuel Florida’s future.

Desoto County

In June 2008, Gov. Charlie Crist signed a comprehensive alternative energy bill aimed at reducing greenhouse gases and encouraging investments in renewable energy technologies, especially wind and solar power. In DeSoto County, efforts were already under way to put this legislation into action. Before the end of 2008, Florida Power & Light (FP&L), the state’s largest investor-owned utility, will begin building the DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center on 1,525 acres near the Hardee County line. When completed, the project will provide 25 megawatts of photovoltaic solar capacity, making it the world’s largest photovoltaic solar facility. Located just north of Arcadia, the new solar plant is slated to be fully operational by 2010; however, more than 3,000 homes could begin using the clean energy as early as 2009.

Solidly Grounded

Agriculture is the South Central/Heartland’s historic economic foundation. Four of this region’s six counties are among the largest in Florida for citrus acreage: Hendry, with some 15 million citrus trees on 95,000 acres, ranks 2nd, followed by Highlands (4th), DeSoto (5th) and Hardee (7th). CF Industries Inc., one of North America’s largest manufacturers and distributors of fertilizer products, employs 175 at its Hardee County-based phosphate rock mine and ore beneficiation plant.

Part of an FP&L initiative to install 300 megawatts of solar energy in Florida, the center will mean hundreds of high-wage construction and operations jobs for the region.

Construction Under Way: Elsewhere in DeSoto County, GEO Group is building the 720-bed Florida Civil Commitment Center in Arcadia. Slated to open in mid-2009, this $60-million state facility will employ approximately 300 people. In addition, the county has received a $500,000 federal grant to be used for the construction of affordable housing.

Tags: Central, Agriculture, Energy & Utilities, Business Florida

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