Business Florida 2021 - The Regions
Alachua • Bradford • Columbia • Dixie • Gilchrist • Hamilton Lafayette • Levy • Madison • Marion • Suwannee • Taylor • Union
Logistics and Distribution
North Central represents an ideal choice for companies looking to increase their logistics and distribution capabilities. I-75 bisects the region on its way north from Miami to Atlanta, and Gainesville is the halfway point. Another hour to the north, at Lake City, is I-10, providing ready access east to Jacksonville and west to Pensacola. And in reasonably close proximity: JAXPORT (80 miles to the northeast) and Port Tampa Bay (130 miles to the south).
Marion County has taken the lead in this thriving industry sector. FedEx was among the first to take advantage of the region’s ready accessibility, opening its 450,000-sq.-ft. distribution center at Ocala/Marion County Commerce Park just off I-75 in 2016, followed by a 10,000-sq.-ft. delivery center two years later. AutoZone came on board next with a 400,000-sq.-ft. distribution facility to serve its 290+ retail stores throughout Florida and Puerto Rico, followed by online pet products retailer Chewy.com with a 600,000-sq.-ft. distribution center — its first in Florida and sixth nationwide. Then along came North Carolina-based Red Rock Developments, which built the 617,000-sq.-ft. Florida Crossroads Logistics Center on spec. That facility was subsequently leased to e-commerce giant Amazon where its location along the industrial corridor off I-75 allows for same-day delivery to more than 14 million people.
And the wave of distribution center development didn’t end there. At the beginning of 2020, Dollar Tree, a leading operator of discount variety stores, announced plans to establish a distribution facility in Ocala to service Dollar Tree and Family Dollar stores throughout Florida and parts of the Southeast. Plans call for the facility to be built in two phases: Phase I: construction of a 500,000-sq.-ft. facility which will employ 200; Phase II: a 1.2-million-sq.-ft. facility and another 500 jobs.
Meanwhile, Alachua County is attracting logistics interest too. FedEx has begun construction of a 42,000-sq.-ft. distribution center in the Airport Industrial Park just north of Gainesville Regional Airport and UPS is considering an expansion.
Meanwhile, to the northwest of Alachua in Taylor County, work is finally underway on an $8.6-million upgrade to a rail line through the town of Perry. The project is a partnership between OmniTRAX, the company that operates the Georgia & Florida Railway, and the Florida Department of Transportation.
KEY PLAYERS: Cheney Brothers, Riviera Beach; Chewy.com, Dania Beach; Dollar Tree, Charlotte, N.C.; FedEx Ground, Coraopolis, Pa.
Goods manufactured in Gainesville include medical equipment and supplies, industrial chemicals, HVAC air control devices and the body armor used by first responders. In Ocala, manufacturers turn out everything from hurricane-resistant glass windows and decorative fences to firetrucks and tortilla chips.
Recent developments in this sector include:
• Super-Pufft Snacks USA, a manufacturing staple in Perry for more than 60 years, has launched a $25-million expansion with plans to double its workforce with the hiring of 100 workers over the next year.
• A&M Boat Manufacturing, maker of Riptide and Bull Dog pontoon boats, plans to hire 100 workers at its new Chiefland location within three years. The company currently occupies the once-vacant Central Florida Electric Cooperative.
• Perry-based Georgia-Pacific Foley has completed an $89-million transformation of its local facility from a pulp mill into a producer of specialty grade cellulose. The transformation includes a new 100,000-sq.-ft. warehouse.
• Entegris, a leader in specialty chemicals and advanced materials solutions for the microelectronics industry, has acquired Gainesville-based Sinmat for $75 million. Sinmat designs and produces the Chemical Mechanical Planarization (CMP) slurries used to polish ultra-hard surface materials used in semiconductor manufacturing.
KEY PLAYERS: E-ONE, Ocala; Georgia-Pacific Foley, Perry; R & J Manufacturing, Gainesville; Stahl-Meyer Foods, Madison