Business Florida 2021 - The Regions
DeSoto • Glades • Hardee • Hendry • Highlands • Okeechobee
Agriculture is big business in Florida, and South Central’s six counties rank among the state’s highest in value of agricultural products sold. According to the most recent USDA Ag Census, Hendry leads the list at just under $500 million followed by 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 in 2017-18, second only to Polk County in Florida’s Tampa Bay region which had 10,000 more acres in production.
Nuco Citrus plans to purchase 193 acres in east DeSoto County, where it will process pectin from citrus peels and other leftovers from the juice-making process.
KEY PLAYERS: Lykes Brothers, Lake Placid, Okeechobee, LaBelle; The Mosaic Company, Hardee and DeSoto counties; United States Sugar, Clewiston
AdventHealth Sebring opened its newly expanded $17.5 million state-of-the-art Heart and Vascular Center in June 2020. The 24,000-sq.-ft. facility, providing 24 private rooms dedicated to heart and vascular patients and a fourth additional catheterization lab, is the only certified heart and vascular center in the South Central region.
South Central is home to South Florida State College with four campuses offering bachelor and associate degree programs in fields such as accounting, agriculture, business, elementary education, health sciences and information technology as well as certificates in a variety of workplace specialties. In January 2021, SFSC will begin providing educational services to active duty members of the armed forces by way of the U.S. Naval Academy Community College.
The Hendry Glades campus of Florida SouthWestern State College in LaBelle and the Dixon Henry campus of Indian River State College in Okeechobee also offer educational support.
Life & Leisure
The least populated of Florida’s eight regions, South Central provides a little glimpse of how things used to be before condos and theme parks. And there’s no shortage of fun things to see and do, from paddling the Peace River to playing a round of golf at Mosaic’s Streamsong Resort built on former phosphate mines. Keep an eye out for the elusive and hard to spot Florida panther, especially at dawn or dusk; get to know the original Floridians and their “chickees” at Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation; or visit the remote Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park near Okeechobee, said to be the best spot for stargazing in Florida.
COVID-19 put a damper on 2020’s NCAA Final Four competition. But who needs brackets and basketball to celebrate March Madness when South Central has a brand of its own? Three back-to-back — and sometimes overlapping — events take place here in March every year. The madness begins in DeSoto County with the four-day Arcadia All Florida Championship Rodeo at Mosaic Arena; the 2021 event will be No. 93. Next up: the “Mobile 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring” endurance race and four-day car-themed party, now in its 69th year. And wrapping it all up, the four-day Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival at Sunshine Grove, a “Woodstock-on-Steroids” event featuring 80 bands and DJs, and at least 25,000 spectators, come rain or come shine.
South Central loves a good festival to celebrate anything and everything. Animals, vegetables, flowers, fruit, fish — you name it, they all get a shout-out here. Typical “honorees” in this region throughout the year include: watermelon (Arcadia); swamp cabbage (LaBelle); sugar (Clewiston); alligator hatching (Palmdale); sour oranges (Lakeport); caladiums (Lake Placid); catfish (Moore Haven); and speckled perch (Okeechobee).