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South Central Florida

South Central at a Glance

South Central Florida

Demographics for the South Central region can be found at Business Florida's interactive map of Florida.

Universities/Colleges
• South Florida Community College

Airports
• Airglades Airport
• Sebring Regional

Expanding companies that are first attracted to South Central Florida for its natural beauty and wide open spaces soon discover that this relaxing environment offers plenty of business advantages too. Although agribusiness has long been a primary economic driver, companies engaged in manufacturing and product distribution are increasingly drawn to this region that offers accessibility and a wealth of available land for both immediate needs and future growth.

Here, where cattle lands, citrus groves, sugar cane fields and subtropical foliage still dominate the landscape, three interstate highways, Florida’s Turnpike, four U.S. highways and 12 state roads provide ready links to airports and seaports in key Florida cities and to important markets throughout the Southeast. Additionally, this region is bisected by the Okeechobee Waterway, a system of navigable rivers and canals linking Florida’s east and west coasts through Lake Okeechobee.

WHO LIVES HERE

Hispanic influence 28% of South Central’s 250,375 residents are Hispanic. Hendry and Hardee counties have the region’s largest Hispanic populations — 50% and 43% respectively, with ethnic Mexicans being the predominant group.

Strategically positioned Thanks to its centralized location in Florida’s heartland, South Central can boast that approximately 85% of the state’s entire population is within a 150-mile radius. Yet this region remains one of Florida’s least crowded. Average population density across the six counties is just 49.6 persons per square mile compared to 350.6 across the entire state.

ECONOMIC LIFE

Logistics
• An intermodal logistics center planned by Lykes Bros. Inc. and A. Duda & Sons in Glades County has taken another step toward realization. Panattoni Development Company has agreed to market and develop what is now called "Americas Gateway Logistics Center." Planned to include 40 million square feet of manufacturing and distribution facilities on 4,700 acres, AGLC will provide easy access to existing inland truck routes as well as rail lines, deepwater ports and airports capable of handling international cargo.

Agribusiness
• In May 2013, Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Company announced plans to spend $2 billion to plant 25,000 acres of new orange groves in three contiguous Florida counties, two of which — Hendry and DeSoto — are located in the South Central region; the third county, Polk, is in Florida’s Tampa Bay region. Altogether, an estimated 5 million new trees will be planted in what is believed to be the largest addition to the state’s citrus industry in 15 years. Approximately 90% of Florida’s orange crop becomes juice, and Coca-Cola, owner of the Minute Maid and Simply Juice brands, buys about a third of all Florida oranges. Company officials say the new groves and resulting juice production could create 4,100 jobs and add more than $10.5 billion to Florida’s economy over the next 25 years.

QUALITY OF LIFE

Home-town charm Lots of places would like to call themselves "America’s Most Interesting Town"; Lake Placid, Florida, really is, according to Reader’s Digest, which bestowed this title upon the Highlands County town in January 2013. Among attractions cited: Toby’s Clown School, which has trained more than 1,500 professional clowns since 1993; the 44 hand-painted murals by local and visiting artists that adorn the facades of local businesses; and the 1,500 acres of pink-and-green leafy blooms that have earned Lake Placid its nickname "Caladium Capital of the World."

Eco-fun Getting back to nature is a favorite pastime in Florida’s heartland, which is home to Lake Okeechobee (the nation’s second largest freshwater lake), plus dozens of smaller lakes and one of Florida’s oldest parks, Highlands State Park, circa 1931. World-class fishing, bird watching, camping and small game hunting are popular region-wide activities.

NOTABLE ADDITIONS/EXPANSIONS

Composite manufacturing Illinois-based Charles Industries has purchased a 40,000-sq.-ft. building on five acres in Okeechobee County, with plans to establish its first Florida facility and bring 28 new jobs to the region. The new company, Charles Composites LLC, will manufacture and distribute composite enclosures for telecommunications and utility applications.

Concrete fabrication HenKay Precast, a division of Indiana-based S & S Precast, has expanded into a 50,000-sq.-ft. building near LaBelle in Hendry County. HenKay makes standard and custom precast concrete products for a variety of uses, including highway projects; 19 new jobs were created.

NOTABLE EMPLOYERS

Logistics
• Agero Inc. Sebring
• Walmart Distribution Center Arcadia
• Walpole Inc. Okeechobee

Agribusiness
• Larson Dairy Inc. Okeechobee
• Lykes Brothers Inc. Highlands, Glades and Okeechobee counties
• Peace River Citrus Products Arcadia
• Southern Gardens Citrus Clewiston
• United States Sugar Clewiston