East Central / Space Coast: Building on Strength
Simulation and life sciences join aviation/aerospace as anchors for this region's diverse economy.
New Strategy: With a new strategic plan in place, Lake County is seeking to diversify an economy that has long been dependent on residential growth. Target industries include agritechnology, business services, health and wellness, arts and leisure and clean technology. Lake will continue to promote its central location as a draw for manufacturing and distribution firms, and will work with elected officials, schools and other organizations on “economic gardening” efforts aimed at growing small companies. The county is already getting a thumbs-up from the business community for its newly refined, rapid-response permitting system.
Looking to Expand: Blue Earth Solutions, formerly located in Delray Beach, has opened a processing plant in Clermont to recycle expanded polystyrene, better known by its brand name Styrofoam. The south Lake County site offers a central location in Florida for collecting the material in mass quantity and melting it down into pellets for recycling.
The company employs about 40 people at the site, including management, office staff, plant workers and truckers, says Jim Cohen Jr., vice president of sales. Blue Earth expects to outgrow its 12,000-square-foot building quickly and is buying the 2.5-acre property on which it sits for future expansion.
Hometown Charm: Billing itself as “Florida’s Friendliest Hometown,” The Villages is a planned, “golf cart” community of nearly 75,000 residents and 38,000 homes encompassing parts of Lake, Sumter and Marion counties. The self-contained development, which caters to retirees, is criss-crossed by trails connecting some 40 recreation centers, 20+ executive golf courses, eight championship golf courses with country clubs, three fitness centers, a polo field, community garden, archery range and two libraries. Better than half of the population here is over 65; less than 0.4% is under 18. And with two town centers, dozens of shops, theaters and year-round events, there’s no excuse for boredom.