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Energized for Growth

South Central

Average population density here is 49.8. At just 17 persons per square mile, Highlands County has the most room to grow.

52% of Hendry County residents are of Hispanic descent compared to 24% statewide; next closest in South Central is Hardee County with a 43% Latino concentration. (U.S. Census Bureau)

  • Population / 257,651
  • Labor Force / 96,860
  • Households / 104,061
  • Total Earnings / $3.71 bil.
  • Median Per Capita Income / $28,306
  • Total Retail Sales / $2.62 bil.
  • State College / 1

Florida utilities have found South Central Florida, with its abundance of wide-open space and sunshine, an ideal environment for solar power plants. Three are up and running; two more will be completed before spring 2018.

ECONOMIC ACTIVITY

Energy

DESOTO COUNTY Florida Power & Light (FPL) expects to begin generating 74.5 megawatts of power — enough for 15,000 homes — from its Wildflower Solar Energy Center by 2018. The state’s first solar plant, DeSoto Solar Energy Center, opened here in 2009, and the Citrus Solar Energy Center opened in 2016. DeSoto generates more solar power than any other Florida county.

HENDRY COUNTY Currently under construction, FPL’s Hammock Solar Energy Center is expected to begin generating 74.5 megawatts of power in spring 2018. Like the DeSoto plant, the Hendry facility will operate as a universal solar center — virtually silent and requiring no water or staff to operate.

HARDEE COUNTY Seminole Electric Cooperative unveiled a solar facility in December 2016 on the grounds of its natural gas-fired Midulla Generating Station in Bowling Green. With more than 8,000 panels, the 2.2-megawatt facility is the utility’s first large-scale solar project. Seminole Electric provides power for more than 1.6 million Floridians through nine member-owned distribution cooperatives, including Glades Electric Cooperative in Moore Haven and Peace River Electric Cooperative in Wauchula.

Key Players

Florida Power & Light | Juno Beach
Seminole Electric Cooperative | Tampa

 

South Central

ECONOMIC ACTIVITY (continued)

Manufacturing

CLEWISTON Aluminum recycling and manufacturing firm ATIO USA will open a $26-million manufacturing facility in Hendry County; 39 jobs paying an average yearly wage of $42,000 are expected.

Key Players

Entegra Roof Tile | Okeechobee
Pacer Marine | Bowling Green
UTC Aerospace Systems | Lake Suzy

 

Agribusiness

HIGHLANDS COUNTY CitraPac, maker of Fruit Pearls real-fruit frozen snacks, has completed construction on its 42,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing facility at Sebring Commerce Park and continues to hire workers. The facility is expected to generate 240 jobs at full production.

Key Players

Mac-Bee Harvesting | Arcadia
The Mosaic Company | Wauchula
United States Sugar | Clewiston

Arcadia Construction broke ground in January 2017 on a new home for the Arcadia All-Florida Championship Rodeo, Florida’s longest-running and largest rodeo event. The $7-million Mosaic Arena will replace the arena built in 1959 and boost capacity to 7,800 seats. Anticipated completion is fall 2017, well ahead of the 90th annual event scheduled for March 2018.

 

Life Sciences/Health Care

SEBRING Florida Hospital Heartland Medical Center Sebring was one of four medical centers in the U.S. selected to perform live case transmissions for the annual Complex Cardiovascular Catheter Therapeutics’ Advanced Endovascular and Coronary Intervention Global Summit (C3). Three procedures performed at the hospital’s Heart & Vascular Center were transmitted via satellite in June 2017 to the C3 summit attended by more than 1,500 physicians in Orlando.

WAUCHULA Florida Hospital Wauchula is on track to complete construction of a $32-million state-of-the-art building by December 2017

Key Players

DeSoto Memorial Hospital | Arcadia
Florida Hospital Heartland Medical Center | Sebring, Lake Placid
Florida Hospital Wauchula | Wauchula
Florida Institute for Neurologic Rehabilitation | Wauchula

 

Logistics

MOORE HAVEN Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores opened in March 2017 at Americas Gateway Logistics Center (AGLC) along U.S. 27 and State Road 78 in Glades County. Love’s 14th travel stop in Florida and the first tenant at AGLC’s master-planned industrial campus, the new facility offers food and fuel for all motorists, plus showers and parking for long-haul truckers. AGLC offers 770+ acres of industrial distribution and manufacturing space, including commercial frontage on U.S. 27 and rail access.

Key Players

Walmart Distribution Center | Arcadia
Walpole | Okeechobee

 

Aviation

SEBRING Pictaio Aerospace has relocated from Iowa to Sebring Regional Airport after teaming up with the Spanish gyroplane manufacturer ELA Aviation. Founded in 2012, Pictaio offers gyroplane sales, service and pilot training; CEO Chris Lord has flown more than two dozen types of gyroplanes and is an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner.

SEBRING In May 2017, Sebring Airport Authority and the City of Sebring hosted the mayor of Anyang City and delegates from the Aero Sport Association, People’s Republic of China. The purpose of the meeting was to develop a relationship between the cities and strengthen their aviation industries. Widely considered the general aviation capital of China, Anyang has established similar relationships with just 28 cities worldwide.

Key Player

Paradise Aircraft USA | Sebring

 

South Central

LIFE & LEISURE

Festivals aplenty
Whatever the season, there is something worthy of public celebration at a South Central Florida festival: swamp cabbage (LaBelle), speckled perch (Okeechobee), caladiums (Lake Placid), sour oranges (Lakeport) and alligator hatching (Palmdale), to name a few. The four-day Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival drew 25,000 concert-goers in spring 2017 to the 800-acre Sunshine Grove site.

Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival

New golfing challenge
Named to Forbes’ list of most eagerly awaited golf courses, Streamsong Black debuts in fall 2017 at Mosaic’s Streamsong Resort in Bowling Green. Designed by Gil Hanse, designer of the 2016 Olympics course in Rio de Janeiro and Castle Stuart Golf Links in Scotland, the par-73 course joins the acclaimed Streamsong Red and Streamsong Blue courses at the resort.

Real Florida adventure
South Central offers a slice of “old Florida” and plenty of fun. Go antiquing in Arcadia; peruse one man’s collection of quirky sculptures at Solomon’s Castle near Wauchula; don a bright red nose in Lake Placid at a school where dozens of clowns have trained; paddle your way down the Peace River; get LOST (otherwise known as “take a hike along the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail”); learn about the first Floridians from the things they left behind now on display at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum at Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation in Clewiston; and stick around after dark to enjoy some of Florida’s best stargazing at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park.