Ready workforce and a fertile business climate are hallmarks of Tampa Bay’s appeal.
Sarasota and Manatee Counties
Business Is Booming
Sarasota and Manatee counties are on a roll. In 2007, Inc. magazine ranked the Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice area number 8 on a list of 393 “Boomtowns” and number 3 among mid-sized cities for job growth.
“You can reach 87% of the population of Florida in a one-day drive,” says Steve Kossoff, managing partner for Meridian Development Group of Clearwater. Kossoff built Sarasota’s 907,000-square-foot Meridian Distribution Center, where in mid-2007, United Natural Foods Inc. opened a 400,000-square-foot organic foods distribution hub. “We’re one mile from I-75 in one of the fastest growing areas of the country. And when there’s a fast-growing population, retailers follow,” he adds. Cases in point: Bradenton-based Beall’s Inc. (200,000 square feet) and seafood provider Rilon Management (100,000 square feet).
Finding fertile ground
Bill Kazokas, station manager and tomato breeder for Enza Zaden Research USA, loves Manatee County, as do his Netherlands-based bosses, who selected a site near Myakka for a new 46-acre research campus. Enza Zaden plans to spend $10 million over several years to develop superior varieties of tomatoes, bell peppers, lettuce, melons and onions in climate-controlled labs and greenhouses. “Cooperative, collaborative openness and support” from area officials played a key role in selecting the Manatee site, says Kazokas.
Location, location: In wealthy Sarasota County
(average income: $49,000+), companies find relocation success.
- Rapid Pathogen Screening, which sells point-of-care diagnostic products for eye conditions, moved its operation from Pennsylvania to the Lakewood Ranch community straddling the Sarasota-Manatee county border.
- Roper Industries, a $1.4-billion-per-year Fortune 1000 company that owns dozens of industrial lines, is moving its headquarters from Georgia to join Rapid Pathogen at Lakewood Ranch.
Across Pasco’s 742 square miles, 100 encompass recreational areas — parks, four artificial reefs (one made of surplus military tanks), more than 25 golf courses and three canoe trails. More than 4,600 acres in the county’s comprehensive plan have been targeted as future sites for high-value industries and corporate business centers.
In June 2007, state healthcare officials gave preliminary approval for a new 80-bed acute care hospital in Wesley Chapel. Construction of the $121-million, three-story structure along State Road 45, just east of I-75, could begin early in 2008.
New Pasco Sites
While the manufacturing, technology and transport/logistics sectors are strong in Pasco, three new mixed-used developments are grabbing the spotlight:
- The Grove at Wesley Chapel — 120 acres devoted to stores, restaurants and entertainment venues with 835,000 square feet of retail space housing 90 tenants. Some 300 residential units are also planned for The Grove, which is expected to open in late 2007 northwest of I-75 at State Road 54.
- Cypress Creek Town Center — 630 acres of retail, restaurant, entertainment and professional space, including a 1.3 million-square-foot mall and 420,000 square feet of office space located at the intersection of I-75 and State Road 56.
- The Shops at Wiregrass — focal point of the 5,022-acre master-planned community, Wiregrass Ranch, which is slated to include 16,000 homes, 4.4 million square feet of commercial space, 3.9 million square feet of office space, schools and a medical center.
Artist’s rendering of The Shops at Wiregrass [Photo: Forest City Enterprises]