Business Florida 2020 - The Regions
Positioned for Success
DeSoto • Glades • Hardee • Hendry • Highlands • Okeechobee
Companies making everything from sun screens to fertilizer have found right sites and a ready workforce in South Central Florida. Many manufacturers have chosen to cluster at Hardee Commerce Park, a 264-acre development offering low-cost utilities, easy proximity to rail and highway connections — even an on-site sheriff’s substation providing 24/7 security. Tenants at the park include: PFMan (high precision parts, molds and fittings for a variety of uses and industries); Pacer Group (electrical supplies for boat builders); Florikan (controlled-release fertilizer); KeyPlex (plant nutritionals and biocontrol products); Stream2Sea (eco-conscious skin care products); and Howard Fertilizer, which operates a distribution center here and a manufacturing facility in Lake Placid.
In Highlands County, CitraPac continues to manufacture FruitPearls and other real fruit healthy snacks at its 44,000-sq.-ft. facility in Sebring. The firm’s president Gregg Harshman is a native of South Central Florida who brought his business home “because operating costs are low, and the people are great.” Elsewhere in Highlands, Illinois-based Diversified CPC International has signed a 25-year lease on a 6,000-sq.-ft. combined office building-warehouse at Sebring Multimodal Logistics Center, a 2,000-acre commerce park adjacent to Sebring Regional Airport. The manufacturer of specialty gases, aerosol propellants, alternative fuels and NGL refrigerants will use the building as a distribution terminal to better serve its Caribbean-based customers. And newly opened in Avon Park: Steel Blue Fabrication, an assembly and fabrication plant providing customized measurement and control products such as meters, gauges, filters and valves for the natural gas and propane gas markets.
In Hendry County, a former sugar cane refinery has been re-purposed as an aluminum recycling and manufacturing plant operated by ATIO USA. The plant converts scrap and waste aluminum into parts for the global automobile industry and OEM suppliers.
After relocating its aluminum button manufacturing operations to Glades County in 2017, Maxant Buttons expanded in 2018 with the purchase of Mike’s Aluminum Products and changed its name to Maxant Aluminum Products. Now, in addition to aluminum buttons, the firm manufactures other aluminum products at its facility in Moore Haven.
KEY PLAYERS: Howard Fertilizer, Lake Placid; CitraPac, Sebring; Maxant Aluminum Products, Moore Haven
Agriculture is big business in Florida, and South Central is ground zero for much of it. This region’s six counties are among the state’s highest annually in value of agricultural products sold. At the top of the list is Hendry at just under $500 million according to the most recent USDA Ag Census, with Highlands and Okeechobee at $273 and $257 million each. With 59,000 acres of citrus land in production, Highland County growers produced 7.9 million boxes of fruit during the 2017-18 growing season, second only to Polk County, which had 10,000 more acres in production.
Delray Beach-based Nuco Citrus is moving ahead with plans to open a citrus processing plant near Arcadia on land previously zoned for agriculture after receiving the go-ahead from DeSoto County officials in February 2019. The 137,000-sq.-ft. plant will convert citrus peels and juice leftovers to pectin, a thickening agent for food processing and other uses; 125 jobs are expected.
Livestock is an important component of South Central’s economy too. All six of the region’s counties were among the top 10 statewide for cattle and calves in 2018 with Okeechobee leading the pack at 175,000 head. Nationwide, Florida ranked 13th in cow inventory in 2018 with just over 1 million head.
KEY PLAYERS: Lykes Brothers, Lake Placid, Okeechobee, LaBelle; Mac-Bee Harvesting, Arcadia; The Mosaic Company, Hardee and DeSoto counties; U.S. Sugar, Clewiston
South Central is home to South Florida State College with four campuses offering bachelor and associate degree programs in such fields as accounting, business, elementary education, health sciences and information technology as well as certificates in a variety of workplace specialties; average class size — 12. Also providing educational support: the Hendry Glades campus of Florida SouthWestern State College in LaBelle and the Dixon Henry campus of Indian River State College in Okeechobee.