April 7, 2020

Business Florida 2020 - The Regions

Growing Strong

Charlotte • Collier • Lee

| 10/16/2019

Logistics and Transportation

Southwest Florida enjoys seam-free accessibility to domestic and international markets. I-75 bisects the region from north to south linking distributors in its three counties to major population centers throughout the Southeast and putting five deep-water ports within a half-day’s drive.

This level of ready proximity to widespread markets drew Cheney Brothers to site its fifth Florida-based distribution center along I-75 in Punta Gorda in 2015. Opened with 250,000 square feet to serve food service providers throughout Florida and beyond, the facility has since expanded to 345,000 square feet and will soon add another 80,000 square feet to accommodate a dry goods storage facility.

Cheney Brothers’ success helped attract another logistics-related company to Florida’s Southwest. Amigo Pallets, a supplier to Cheney Brothers, has opened a 16,000-sq.-ft. warehouse nearby. Headquartered in Miami, the firm specializes in recycled and custom pallets used in food and materials handling. Says co-owner Raul Alfonso, “Cheney Brothers is the reason we’re here.”

Also taking advantage of Southwest’s logistical assets: Amazon. In February 2019, the online e-commerce giant opened a 60,000-sq.-ft. delivery station in Fort Myers in a former warehouse just off I-75.

Two commercial airports serve this region and both are busier than ever. Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, which ranks among the top 50 airports for passenger traffic in the U.S. and offers nonstop service to more than 40 domestic and four international destinations, logged a record 9.4 million passengers in 2018. Coming in 2020: a $220-million terminal expansion project to include new security checkpoints and additional concessions.

With just one airline — Allegiant — and a combination of 41 seasonal and year-round routes, Punta Gorda Airport (PGD) logged nearly 1.6 million passengers in 2018 for a 22% increase over the previous year. In addition to commercial air service, this general aviation facility hosts many aviation businesses and flight schools and will soon be home to an aviation mechanics training facility. Charlotte Technical College will oversee course development and provide the instructors; a $1.7 million Florida Job Growth Workforce Training Grant will underwrite the costs.

Also coming to Punta Gorda Airport: Intrepid Aerospace. Currently based in Fort Myers, the FAA-certified repair facility specializes in maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) for national and international commercial aircraft as well as fixed-base and military operators. Intrepid plans to build an interim hangar at PGD and begin servicing aircraft within the next six to eight months, to be followed within three years by a larger permanent hangar to house the MRO facility.

KEY PLAYERS: Cheney Brothers, Riviera Beach; Intrepid Aerospace, Punta Gorda; Amazon, Seattle, Wa.

 

Manufacturing

Nor-Tech Hi-Performance Boats, a Lee County fixture since 1991, celebrated the grand opening of its new manufacturing headquarters in Cape Coral in April 2019. With the 55,000-sq.-ft. facility and 40 new-hires in place, Nor-Tech expects to increase production by 30% and to potentially hire another 150.

Canadian manufacturer MetalCraft Marine, a leader in the design and production of high-speed patrol, fire, rescue and work boats for military and civilian use throughout North America, including Charlotte County’s newest Fire/EMS rescue boat, plans to open a facility at Punta Gorda Interstate Airport Park. The firm will use Charlotte Harbor and a nearby retention pond to test its boats in both salt and fresh water.

KEY PLAYERS: Pelican Wire, Naples; S4J Manufacturing Services, Cape Coral; Shaw Development, Bonita Springs

 

Education

Florida SouthWestern State College — ranked one of the nation’s “50 Best Community Colleges” by College Choice in 2018 — offers baccalaureate, associate and certificate programs at campuses in all three Southwest Florida counties. In 2019, FSW opened a Corporate Training Center in Bonita Springs to provide a centralized location for customized business training programs. In recent months, FSW has received state grants to train 330 employees at Punta Gorda-based Cheney Brothers and another 150 at Bonita Springs-based Herc Rentals.

Also providing higher education opportunities in Southwest Florida are Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers offering 58 undergraduate and 31 graduate degrees, plus workshops and counseling for entrepreneurs; and two private universities: Hodges, with campuses in Naples and Fort Myers, and Ave Maria, a Catholic university and town created by Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan.

Tags: Southwest, Business Florida

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