Convergence of roads, rails and runways gives North Central region its economic clout.
Logistics and distribution are taking center stage in Columbia County’s economic development efforts. The new Employ Florida Banner Center for Logistics and Distribution, headquartered at Lake City Community College, will offer skills-based training to meet the needs of employers in this rapidly growing sector.
Retail giant Target is locating a cold food storage distribution center just north of Lake City on U.S. 441. The fully automated facility, an $85-million investment and Target’s first company-owned perishable food distribution center, will support Target SuperCenters in Florida and Geogia. Slated to open in August 2008, the 465,000-square-foot operation will bring in 140 jobs, with an average annual wage of $35,000.
High volume, ready access
“Close to 55% of our southeastern volume goes into Florida at this point,” reports Larry Alderfer, CEO of US Cold Storage. So it made good sense for Alderfer and his team to locate one of the company’s five expansion sites in Lake City. Not only does the Columbia County location make for easy distribution throughout Florida, the area’s superb rail and road connections provide exceptional access to several states in the Southeast as well.
The planned 450,000-square-foot USCS distribution center at Lake City will take shape in three construction phases and will eventually employ close to 120 people. Phase I — the first 200,000 square feet — is slated for completion by January 2008; it will mean a $20-million investment and 50 new jobs.
Bradford & Union Counties
Improving and promoting a great quality of life is the focus in Bradford and Union counties, where there is some growth in residential housing as new developments get the green light. In Starke, the Main Street Starke Group is revitalizing the downtown area with the addition of three new restaurants and a bakery. The group also is bringing in large crowds to celebrate Friday Fests, a live band concert and classic car drive-in held the last Friday of each month.
Hamilton & Madison Counties
Hamilton County, which hugs the Florida-Georgia state line, will soon welcome a new manufacturing facility.
“We needed a large tract of land with good rail and highway access and a trained or trainable workforce,” says Mark Falck, vice president of Florida land operations for Maronda Integrated Production Systems, a division of Maronda Homes. The company found both in Hamilton County, where plans are in the works to construct an 85,000-square-foot facility for the manufacture, storage and distribution of roof trusses throughout north Florida and into Georgia.
“We had a defined set of criteria for the site selection process,” says Falck. “Since this will be a pretty sizeable operation, we had to find a large enough piece of property, plus a strong workforce. Hamilton County had both. We look forward to being in Hamilton County.”
Madison County has run water and sewer lines to three interchanges along
I-10, and five miles of parallel road between CR 255 and SR 53 have been constructed with water and sewer services in hopes of attracting new businesses and jobs.
Dixie, Gilchrist & Levy Counties
Setting an Example
High-tech waste management is coming to Dixie County as Dixie Waste Services enters the final stages of permitting for construction of a gasification facility on 19 acres of land. The environmentally clean waste management technique will disintegrate 150 tons of trash per day and employ around 20 workers. And since developers plan to use the Dixie County site as a showcase for larger communities seeking waste disposal alternatives, some additional airport activity is expected, too.
Growing a Workforce
In Levy and Gilchrist counties, nuclear energy is the new topic of conversation. “We have a preferred site selected in Levy County to construct a nuclear power plant,” Progress Energy’s Vice President-North Coastal Region Martha Barnwell told industry and education leaders at the kickoff luncheon for the Power Industry academies being formed to prepare high school students for careers with utilities and energy companies. “We’re excited to plug into these education systems to help ‘grow our own’ employees for the future.”
Lafayette, Suwannee & Taylor Counties
The Business and Industrial Park in Lafayette County is home to three new businesses: BG&P Industries, Bell Cabinet Shop and Marine Diving Supply. Together, they represent close to 40 new jobs for the area.
Suwannee County officials are taking advantage of state funds to improve recreational areas in the county. The communities of Jennings and White Springs received grants of $200,000 each through the Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program (FRDAP) for improvements to local recreation sites.
The undeveloped coastline of Taylor County will soon have a new look. Big Bend Properties, Inc. is in the permitting stage for the development of a condominium complex. The 600-unit development will be constructed along 3,780 acres of Gulf Coast property.