Florida Trend

Florida Small Business



November 17, 2017


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Economically savvy companies find affordability and a convenient location in Florida’s heartland.

Gary B. Shepherd | 10/1/2007

Greenhouses in Highlands County help keep Florida’s nursery industry in the number 2 spot nationwide. [Photo: Highlands Today]
A central location and superb accessibility make the six-county South Central/Heartland region a wise choice for businesses seeking to prosper and grow. Close to 85% of Florida’s population lives within 150 miles of this region, and several major airports and seaports are only short drives away.

Positioned just south of Florida’s geographic midpoint, the 5,000-square-mile South Central/Heartland region boasts the kind of reasonably priced building sites to which economically savvy companies are increasingly drawn.

Hardee County

Ahead of the Pace

One example of a company looking to capitalize on this region’s affordability is Pacer Marine Engineering (PME). PME broke ground in mid-2007 for a 40,000-square-foot manufacturing facility near Wauchula in Hardee County Commerce Park.

“The people of Hardee County have been second to none,” says Jack Swiatkowski, president of this family-owned manufacturer of wire harnesses, instrumentation and digital control systems. Swiatkowski cites reasonable insurance and property costs, lower taxes and the “friendly, small-town feel of the area” among reasons why PME chose Wauchula. The company, which will open with a staff of 30 and eventually grow to 100 employees, received fiscal incentives for its project. “It’s a performance-based deal,” says Swiatkowski. “Hardee County is looking to populate the area with jobs, and that’s what we’ll be doing.”

Highlands County

Sebring Regional Airport
[Photo: Kathy Waters]

Center of Activity

Highlands, where business centers on Sebring and its busy airport, is the largest and most heavily populated county in the South Central/Heartland region. Of the region’s 254,018 total residents, close to 100,000 live in Highlands.

By Air: Sebring
Regional airport is Unique

The only U.S. airport to encompass both a Foreign Trade Zone and a Community Redevelopment Agency is home base for several businesses, including:
» E-Stone USA,
which in 2007 opened a second production line and doubled the size of its granite product manufacturing facility to about 150,000 square feet.
» Funder America Inc., maker of laminated wood products, which also is expanding.

Tags: Central, Business Florida

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