Business Florida 2020 - The Regions
On the Rise
Alachua • Bradford • Columbia • Dixie • Gilchrist • Hamilton Lafayette • Levy • Madison • Marion • Suwannee • Taylor • Union
Logistics and Distribution
North Central is an ideal choice for companies looking to increase their logistics and distribution efficiency. I-75 bisects this region on its way north from Miami to Atlanta, and Greater Gainesville is the halfway point. Just half an hour north at Lake City is I-10, providing ready access east to Jacksonville and west to Pensacola. Also in close proximity, JAXPORT (80 miles to the northeast) and Port Tampa Bay (130 miles south).
No surprise that Marion County is a heavyweight hub for companies in this industry sector. FedEx Ground opened its 450,000-sq.-ft. distribution center at Ocala/Marion County Commerce Park just off I-75 in 2016, and others quickly followed. AutoZone added a 440,000-sq.-ft. distribution center to serve its 290+ retail stores throughout Florida and Puerto Rico, and online pet products retailer Chewy.com built a 600,000-sq.-ft. distribution center, its first in Florida and sixth nationwide.
Currently under construction by North Carolina-based Red Rock Development at Ocala/Marion County Commerce Park is Florida Crossroads Logistics Center. The $43-million project is being built purely on speculation; it has no tenants yet, but developers are optimistic that with high-profile next-door neighbors like FedEx, AutoZone and Chewy, the new 617,046-sq.-ft. center will fill up quickly.
Meanwhile, leading grocery supply chain services firm McLane Company has opened a new 400,000-sq.-ft. grocery distribution center in the Ocala International Commerce Center, its sixth such center in Florida and one of more than 80 nationwide.
Alachua County is looking to grow its logistics and distribution footprint too. Joining Sysco, Nordstrom, Walmart and Dollar General distribution centers in Gainesville is a 10,000-sq.-ft. “last-mile” delivery station where packages shipped from Amazon’s fulfillment and sortation centers are loaded into vehicles for hand-delivery to customers.
Smaller counties throughout Florida’s North Central are upgrading their logistics and distribution capabilities too:
• Under construction in Columbia County near Lake City is a rail spur that extends from a CSX-owned main rail line to the edge of what is to become the North Florida Mega Industrial Park. The 2,622-acre supersite is being developed by its landowner, Georgia-based timber giant Weyerhaeuser.
• Taylor County’s Development Authority has launched its “Pre-Checked” program to stimulate the sale of commercial properties. Signs placed in prominent locations quickly inform site selectors of property availability and pricing.
• Duke Energy Florida has selected a 5,400-acre property near Inglis in Levy County for its site readiness program, as part of an effort to attract economic development prospects in targeted industries such as food processing and general manufacturing.
KEY PLAYERS: Cheney Brothers, Riviera Beach; Chewy.com, Dania Beach; FedEx Ground, Moon, Penn.
Manufacturing is a growing industry sector in Florida’s North Central and not limited to any one particular product type or category.
Goods manufactured in Gainesville include medical equipment and supplies, industrial chemicals, HVAC air control devices and duct adapters and the life-saving body armor used by first responders. Exactech, a manufacturer of bone and joint restoration products with offices in the U.S., five European countries, Australia and Japan, has been headquartered in Gainesville since its founding in1965. Dozens of manufacturers have found homes in Ocala too, where they make everything from hurricane resistant glass windows and decorative fences to custom-designed stairs and walkways, fire trucks and tortilla chips.
Making news in this sector:
• Madison County-based Stahl-Meyer Foods, which has been in the business of making hot dogs and cold cuts since 1863, has signed a five-year contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars to provide food at the team’s TIAA Bank Field.
• Georgia-Pacific, an Atlanta, Ga.-based pulp and paper company, is already reaping benefits from the installation of new Black Liquor Evaporators (BLEs), which help increase mill efficiency and reduce groundwater usage at its Foley Cellulose mill in Perry.
KEY PLAYERS: E-ONE, Ocala; Exactech, Gainesville; Stahl-Meyer Foods, Madison