Business Florida 2022 - The Regions
DeSoto • Glades • Hardee • Hendry • Highlands • Okeechobee
All six South Central counties rank among the top statewide for cattle and calves with Okeechobee and Highlands leading the pack in 2020 at 175,000 and 120,000 head, respectively.
Fresh fruits and vegetables have an important role to play too. This region is the number one producer of fresh tomatoes in the U.S., and oranges, grapefruit and tangerines remain among this area’s top agricultural crops. In 2020, citrus firm Alico made news with the purchase of 3,280 acres of groves in Hendry County, bringing its total Florida citrus acreage to more than 48,000.
Other top-notch agricultural players in Hendry include Frey Farms, in LaBelle, the nation’s largest producer of watermelon; C&B Farms, in Clewiston, the largest source of culinary herbs along the East Coast; and the big daddy of them all, U.S. Sugar, the largest producer of sugarcane in the U.S. by volume.
KEY PLAYERS: Lykes Brothers, Lake Placid, Okeechobee, LaBelle; The Mosaic Company, Hardee and DeSoto counties; U.S. Sugar, Clewiston
With an abundance of available land and sunshine, Florida’s South Central region offers an ideal environment to cultivate solar power. In 2009, the state’s largest utility, Florida Power & Light, built its first solar power plant in DeSoto. In 2016, FPL opened its second DeSoto County solar power plant — Citrus Solar Energy Center — on the same site, but three times the size of the first. Next came Wildflower and Cattle Ranch solar energy centers, followed by a fifth facility — Rodeo Solar Energy Center comprising 300,000 panels and generating 74.5 megawatts — which began powering some 15,000 homes in May 2021.
Hendry and Okeechobee have also loomed large as solar energy sites in FP&L’s goal to become this state’s largest generator of solar energy. FP&L added Hammock Solar Energy Center in 2018 and in 2020, Blue Heron Solar Energy Center and Okeechobee Solar Energy Center. Scheduled to open by the end of 2021 are two more Okeechobee sites — Fort Drum Solar Energy Center and Lakeside Solar Energy Center.
Meanwhile, Duke Energy Florida, Florida’s other primary utility, is adding solar facilities too. In addition to its Lake Placid Solar Power Plant, Duke plans to open two more in Hardee County: Charlie Creek Solar Power Plant on 610 acres and Fort Green Solar Power Plant on 500 acres.
KEY PLAYERS: Florida Power & Light, Juno Beach; Duke Energy Florida, St. Petersburg
Companies making everything from sunscreen to fertilizer have found right sites and a ready workforce in South Central Florida, including these production facilities:
• Stream2Sea (eco-conscious skin and hair care products) in Wauchula;
• CitraPac (FruitPearls and other frozen fruit healthy snacks) in Sebring;
• Steel Blue Fabrication (prefabricated meter sets; regulator stations; manifolds; and complete measurement stations/skids) in Avon Park; and
• Wedgworth (custom-blended fertilizer products) in Moore Haven.
Among new activity in this sector:
• Nucor Corporation began operations at its new $240-million steel plant in Frostproof. The mill is expected to produce up to 350,000 metric tons of rebar annually from Florida’s abundant supply of scrap metal.
• Bautech USA continues construction of its new facility at Okeechobee Airport Industrial Park which is expected to produce 800 metric tons/day of precast concrete products.
KEY PLAYERS: CitraPac, Sebring; Entegra Roof Tile, Okeechobee; Florikan, Bowling Green; Stream2Sea, Wauchula