Increased tourism and convention activity have prompted part of the building boom, but the real driver is an influx of sporting events. Not known as a sports Mecca, Polk began marketing itself six years ago as a host for second-tier events involving softball, youth basketball and ice hockey, waterskiing, fishing and golf. "All the communities have contributed to this by building facilities," says Ken Nelson of the Polk County Tourist Development Council.
The strategy appears to be paying off: Sporting events generated $58 million in business in Polk County during the last fiscal year, compared to $43 million the year before.
Development officials say the county has capitalized on its location in marketing itself as a sports venue. Attendees at sporting events can use Polk as a base from which to visit other attractions in central and southwest Florida. "Event promoters have discovered that we provide services they can't get other places in the U.S," says Mark Jackson of Polk County Sports Marketing. "This is vacation central, a place people can bring their families, and our mission is to put heads in beds."- Mindy Tanenbaum
CLEARWATER - Tech Data Corp. (Nasdaq-TECD), a global distributor of computer products, plans to open a distribution center in the Paris Ile-de-France region. The 278,000-square-foot facility, which will be located near Disneyland Paris, is expected to be complete by summer 1999.
Giant Group terminated a proposed merger with Checkers (Nasdaq-CHKR) because a definitive agreement could not be finalized [FT, Nov. 98].
FORT MYERS - Pole-Kat Golf Equipment, a leading U.S. golf club manufacturer, has relocated its operations from Farmington Hills, Mich., to Lee County and will employ 25 by the end of the month. Pole-Kat will manufacture its clubs at the facility as well as operate a factory outlet for direct sales to customers.
NAPLES- Hedge fund consultancy firm LJH Alternative Investment Advisors moved its headquarters to a new, larger Naples facility in the SunTrust Bank Building on Laurel Oak Drive. LJH has grown to 15 analysts and is likely to expand to 20 within a year.
SARASOTA- ThermaCell Technologies (Nasdaq-VCLL), a manufacturer of building materials, acquired Sealco Systems and T-Coast Pavers of Stuart. Sealco provides outdoor sealing and weatherproofing services, and T-Coast manufactures pavers used in construction. The acquisitions will nearly double ThermaCell's 1997 revenue of $1.04 million, enabling it to become profitable for the first time since going into business in August 1993. The company lost more than $1 million in both 1996 and 1997.
TAMPA - University Community Hospital broke ground on a $13 million Medical Arts Tower at its Carrollwood facility. The five-story, 73,000-square-foot medical building should open by next summer.
Intermedia Communications (Nasdaq-ICIX) will move its headquarters to 50-acres in Highwoods Preserve, a 200-acre mixed-use project. The company, a provider of communications services to business and government customers, employs 1,400 in Tampa, and the number is expected to reach 2,000 within the next two years. The new Intermedia facility will include at least five buildings and total 800,000 square feet. Lykes Consumer Brands, a new subsidiary of Lykes Bros., will handle sales and marketing of Lykes' retail products and bring nearly 100 jobs to Tampa. Sales and marketing of the company's retail juice products was previously handled by Lykes Pasco in Dade City.
EastGroup Properties, a Jackson, Miss., real estate investment trust, will develop a 222,000-sq.-ft. build-to-suit distribution facility for Premier Beverage Co. a unit of Maryland-based Sunbelt Beverage Corp. Construction begins this month, and occupancy is scheduled for September 1999.