Florida Trend | Florida's Business Authority

South Central Florida

South Central Florida

Expanding companies first attracted to South Central Florida for its natural beauty and wide open spaces soon discover that this relaxing environment offers plenty of business advantages too. This region’s location in the heartland of Florida means that approximately 85% of the state’s entire population is within a 150-mile radius. The workforce in these six counties alone tops 100,000; another 4.4 million workers can be found in contiguous counties. Population density in this region averages just 42.2 persons per square mile compared to the statewide average density of 355.

Here, where cattle lands, citrus groves, sugar cane fields and subtropical foliage still dominate the landscape, three interstate highways, Florida’s Turnpike, four U.S. highways and 12 state roads provide ready links to airports and seaports in key Florida cities and to important markets throughout the Southeast. Additionally, this region is bisected by the Okeechobee Waterway, a system of navigable rivers and canals linking Florida’s east and west coasts through Lake Okeechobee. South Florida State College, offering three campuses and Associate of Arts degrees in more than a dozen fields of study, celebrated its 50th anniversary in February 2015.


Hispanic influence
31% of South Central’s nearly 252,000 residents are Hispanic, compared to the state’s Hispanic population share of 24%. At 50%, Hendry County has this region’s largest concentration of Latinos, with Hardee County a close second at 43%.

Farmers, ranchers and more While South Central’s location in Florida’s heartland has contributed to an increase in the number of firms engaged in distribution and manufacturing, agribusiness remains the dominant industry sector here. Four of the top five citrus-producing counties in Florida are in this region as are two of the top three counties for cattle. In fact, South Central’s six counties together represent 31% of Florida’s overall cattle/calf herd.



  • Phosphate-mining giant Mosaic Company has applied for permits to mine about 22,000 acres in Hardee County and 18,000 acres in neighboring DeSoto County. Future operations in the two counties are expected to require 500-600 full-time employees.

Aviation & Defense

  • Sebring Regional Airport, which includes a 2,000-acre commerce park, remains a catalyst for economic development. New arrivals include:
  • Paradise Aircraft of Brazil leasing a 5,000-sq.-ft. hangar for the manufacture/distribution of its next generation P1 Special Light Sport aircraft.
  • FLG Teardowns to handle aircraft parts distribution through dismantling, as well as recycling for unused parts.
  • Lockwood Aviation Corporation with a 6,000-sq.-ft. facility where customers can build their own AirCam twin-engine experimental planes.
  • Also looking to become a business asset is Airglades Airport in Clewiston where a new management firm is seeking to win FAA approval to purchase and privatize the county-owned airport in hopes of creating an international cargo hub for perishable goods.
  • Altair Training Solutions, which opened a special ops training facility for military, law enforcement and other teams requiring force readiness skills at the former Hendry Correctional Institution in 2014, will add 10 jobs by the end of 2015 and another 100 over the next three years.


  • Construction is underway on the Gateway Logistics and Manufacturing Training Center in Moore Haven. The 40,000-sq.-ft. facility is aimed at developing a talent pipeline for companies looking to relocate or launch in South Central Florida. Anticipated opening: spring 2016.


  • Veteran race car driver Ivor Wigham plans to turn a closed jail near Arcadia into a manufacturing plant and training ground for rally car drivers. Wigham’s company, Power Auto Corporation, expects to employ 80-120 in its first year, and up to 360 within five.


Manufacturing CitraPak plans to open a new manufacturing plant at the Sebring Regional Airport in Highlands County for production of a new line of healthy real-fruit frozen snacks called “Fruit Pearls.” The 37,000-sq.-ft. facility to be constructed at Sebring Commerce Park is expected to create 240 new jobs.

Clean energy Florida Power & Light (FPL) is moving forward with plans to build a natural gas-powered plant on 2,800 acres in northeastern Okeechobee County. If all necessary approvals are received as anticipated, construction would start in 2017, and the new plant would begin powering some 300,000 homes in mid-2019. An average of 300 jobs during the two-year construction period and 50 permanent positions are expected.


Good looking and prosperous One of America’s 10 most picturesque small towns, according to theculturetrip.com, is Sebring, which boasts ready access to some of the best hiking in Florida, the famed “12 Hours of Sebring” motorsport endurance race and, it seems, a rosy future. A report from the U.S. Conference of Mayors, prepared by IHS Global Insight, ranked Sebring No. 2 among U.S. metro areas expected to see the most economic growth (4.8%) in 2016.

Real Florida adventures There’s plenty to see and do in South Central. Browse for antiques in Arcadia, spend an afternoon perusing one man’s quirky collection at “Solomon’s Castle” near Wauchula, check out 700 pieces of clown memorabilia at Toby’s American Clown Museum and School in Lake Placid, where dozens of working clowns have trained, or dip your toes in Lake Okeechobee — the nation’s second largest freshwater lake. World-class fishing, bird watching, camping, small game hunting and gator spotting are popular activities in this region, as are festivals devoted to such natural wonders as swamp cabbage (LaBelle), speckled perch (Okeechobee) and caladiums (Lake Placid).



  • Walmart Distribution Center| Arcadia
  • Walpole Inc. | Okeechobee


  • Lykes Brothers Inc. | Glades, Highlands and Okeechobee counties
  • The Mosaic Company | Wauchula
  • Southern Gardens Citrus | Clewiston
  • TKM Farms | Belle Glade
  • United States Sugar | Clewiston


  • DeSoto Memorial Hospital | Arcadia
  • Florida Hospital Heartland Medical Center | Sebring
  • Florida Institute for Neurologic Rehabilitation | Wauchula

Key Demographics


Labor Force


Household EBI

Total Retail Sales
$3.24 bil.

Key Area Assets

South Florida State College

Sebring Regional Airport