Florida Heartland ERO | tburroughs@co.okeechobee.fl.us | 1.863.697.6325 | ADDRESS:304 NW 2nd St. | Room 123 | Okeechobee, FL 34972
FLORIDA’S HEARTLAND

HIGHLANDS COUNTY OFFICE OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

 

Located in the center of the Sunshine State, Highlands County’s inland location provides quick connectivity to Florida’s metro markets with ample room for growth. Highlands County has a growing population of over 100,000 residents and is projected to grow by more than 11 percent by 2020 to over 111,000. Highlands’ ideal climate and amenities make it a popular seasonal destination attracting about 20 percent more people to the county in season. Along with this, about 2,400 people commute in to the community each day for work with even more people coming for groceries, dining, shopping, and health care.

 

Connectivity

More than 86 percent of Florida’s population is located within a 150-mile radius of Highlands County (about 17 million people). The county is situated in the middle of Florida’s extensive multi-modal infrastructure and it is surrounded by interstates, commercial airports, and deep water ports. Its location is nearly equidistant to the metro markets of Orlando, Tampa and Fort Myers. U.S. Highway 27 provides direct connectivity to Interstate 4 to the north and direct access to South Florida. State roads 64, 66, 70 and 17 provide quick access to Interstate 75 to the west and Interstate 95 and the Florida Turnpike to the west. Class 1 CSX rail and the South Central Florida Express short line rail service Highlands County and the county is within 60 miles of the new Central Florida Intermodal Logistics Center in neighboring Polk County.

 

Workforce

Highlands County’s has a dedicated workforce of approximately 37,000 individuals. It is home to South Florida State College and in close proximity to five other colleges and universities. A talent pipeline of more than 22,000 students is available within a one-hour drive and more than 190,000 students are within a two-hour drive. The average annual wage is $31,289.

 

Education

Highlands County’s school district prepares more than 12,000 students a year in Pre-K through 12th grade to be tomorrow’s leaders. The district has an advanced offering of quality education programs including Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, Dual Enrollment, the Advance Via Individual Determination (AVID) program and the Highlands Career Institute. South Florida State College offers more than 70 degrees and programs in high-demand fields. In Fall 2017, the college is launching its newest program called “Re-Engineering Our Future”. The program features new degree offerings related to Highlands County’s target industries in engineering technology, mechatronics and biomedical science.

 

Competitive Business Climate

Highlands County offers an advantageous business climate with leaders committed to streamlined services, support programs, like its local Property Tax Abatement Program, and low business costs. Operating costs within the area are about 10 to 15 percent lower than metropolitan areas and there are no impact fees. Community Redevelopment Agencies in Sebring and Avon Park’s downtowns and airport parks also provide unique incentives to assist businesses. The Sebring Regional Airport and Commerce Park’s Foreign Trade Zone No. 215 assists companies located in all of Highlands County. The FTZ allows companies to land, handle, manufacture or reconfigure goods and re-export them without the intervention of the customs authorities.

 

Sites

Highlands currently has an inventory of more than 100 sites available for industrial, commercial and agricultural development. Existing manufacturing buildings include a 101,000 square foot former paper mill and a 90,000 square foot former citrus plant. Also located in the county is the Sebring Regional Airport. The airport is a 2000-acre industrial park that offers existing buildings or developable land at competitive lease rates. The site features an industrial rail spur, onsite water and wastewater plants, three phase power, natural gas, and broadband.

 

Lifestyle

In Highlands County, enjoy the Sunshine State lifestyle envied all over the world, at a much lower cost than other areas. In fact, Highlands County ranked second in a recent study of The Best Places to Own a Home in Florida conducted by financial firm SmartAsset. Highlands County also has two quality hospitals with more than 250 physicians in their networks. The county is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream with 113 idyllic lakes and waterways, world-renown Sebring International Raceway, 14 golf courses, Lake Placid’s famous murals, and of course the Avon Park Air Force Range, which offers more than 82,000 acres of pristine recreational land.

 

Industry

Highlands County has a proud agriculture history and is home to many modern-day, sophisticated agriculture operations. The county’s agriculture legacy is also supported by strong manufacturing and distribution operations and a thriving health care industry. A few notable industry facts include:

  • Highlands County consistently ranks as one of the top three Florida counties in cattle production each year and was the number two cattle producer in 2015-2016.

  • It is also consistently in the top five of citrus production in the state and had the fourth largest crop in 2014-2015.

  • Lake Placid is the “Caladium Capital of the World”.

  • It is also home to Delray Plants, which is the second largest nursery in Florida and the 14th largest grower in the United States.

  • The top fertilizer producer in Florida, Howard Fertilizer & Chemical, has a production facility in Lake Placid.  

  • One of the five national call centers for Agero is located in Sebring and employs 500 individuals. Agero provides roadside assistance and other automotive services.

  • The Avon Park Air Force Range is the largest bombing range and gunnery east of the Mississippi. The range complex and all of its tenants employ over 800 individuals and have an annual economic impact estimated around $68 million.

  • Sebring Airport and Industrial Park provides a solid home for many companies to thrive.

    • Notable manufacturing tenants include:

    • GulfCoast Supply recently opened a new 110,000 square foot metal roofing manufacturing facility in Sebring.

    • TurfCare Supply is one of the nation’s largest producers of blended products to the turf and ornamental grass industries. One of its three national manufacturing facilities is located in Sebring.

    • Genpack is a plastics manufacturers and one of the leading suppliers of food service packaging products. The company employs over 100 individuals at its Sebring facility.

    • CitraPac is a specialty manufacturer of real fruit frozen snacks known as FruitPearls. The company just completed a new 44,000 square foot facility.

    • The airport has also attracted a number of stellar aviation companies to its campus. A few notable tenants include:

    • Paradise Aircraft is a Brazilian manufacturer of light sport aircraft. Paradise recently located its U.S. operations at the Sebring airport.

    • Tecnam is an Italian manufacturer and world leader in the construction of light aircraft. Sebring serves as its U.S. headquarters.

    • Lockwood Aviation is a part supply company, engine distributer, and most notably constructs the Aircam, a revolutionary craft originally designed for National Geographic.

    • Flight Logistics Group recently located its FLG Teardowns operation at the airport. FLG handles everything from aircraft parts distribution through dismantling as well as materials recycling for unused parts.


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