Business Florida 2022 - The Regions
Charlotte • Collier • Lee
While medical devices are an important component of Southwest Florida’s technology sector, they do not represent the full gamut of technical expertise available throughout the region. Consider also these tech companies that are focused on non-medical solutions:
• Tech research and advisory firm Gartner, a fixture in Fort Myers for more than 20 years, has opened a new campus on Paul J. Doherty Parkway near the airport and plans to add as many as 2,300 workers in sales, client service, research and finance by 2022.
• Cigent, a cybersecurity company established in 2018 in Fort Myers, uses advanced endpoint and managed network security solutions to thwart ransomware attacks and stop data theft even after a security breach.
• Bonita Springs-based Flightdocs offers aviation management software for aircraft maintenance tracking, inventory management and flight operations.
KEY PLAYERS: Alta Resources, Fort Myers; ASG Technologies, Naples; Cignent Technology, Fort Myers; Gartner, Stamfort, Conn.; Zypha Corporation, Port Charlotte
Logistics & Transportation
Companies representing a variety of industry sectors and sizes throughout Southwest Florida enjoy ready accessibility to domestic and international markets in multiple ways. I-75 bisects the region from north to south linking distributors in Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties to major population centers throughout the Southeast and to their five deep-water ports that are within a half-day’s drive. Thanks to this level of proximity to widespread markets, Florida’s Southwest region has established a solid reputation for excellence in logistics and distribution.
One company drawn here because of this region’s seamless connections is food service distributor Cheney Brothers. Founded in 1925 in Riviera Beach on Florida’s east coast, this family-owned and operated firm chose to site its fifth distribution center along I-75 in Punta Gorda in 2015. Since opening at 250,000 square feet, the facility has twice expanded and today, standing at a total of 455,000 square feet, employs close to 450.
And it’s not alone. All across the region businesses looking to streamline their distribution and logistics operations are choosing to settle in Florida’s Southwest. Neighboring Lee County, for example, is home to R&L Truckload Services and ScottLynn USA, which is nearing completion on its new 60,000-sq.-ft. North American corporate headquarters off I-75 in Fort Myers.
Builders are scrambling to deliver new and bigger distribution facilities too. A North Carolina-based commercial real estate development firm has received preliminary approval to build a 250,000-sq.-ft. distribution center in Punta Gorda with completion slated for 2022. Rumor has it the tenant might be FedEx. Meanwhile, in Collier County, Uline, a manufacturer of packaging materials, is planning to build a 950,000-sq.-ft. distribution center not far from the site where online retail giant Amazon has proposed the opening of a “last mile” distribution center on roughly 18 acres designated for commercial development.
There’s renewed activity at Punta Gorda Airport too, where construction is underway on an $18-million expansion, and three aviation companies — Airtrek, Arcadia Aerospace and APG Avionics — have settled in, prompting renewed interest in creating a hub for airplane parts manufacturers and aviation MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) businesses if additional space can be found. And another bit of good news: The Florida International Air Show, which was canceled in 2020 for the first time in 38 years due to the pandemic, returns to Punta Gorda in October 2021.
KEY PLAYERS: Amazon, Seattle, Wa.; Arcadia Aerospace Industries, Punta Gorda; Cheney Brothers, Riviera Beach; Intrepid Aerospace, Fort Myers; Paramount Logistics, Fort Myers
Florida’s Southwest is well-known as a hub for medical device manufacturing, but this region is also home to facilities creating everything from LED retrofit kits to custom UL certified insulated wires for applications in defense, medical and dental devices and cutting machines.
In summer 2021, Southwest’s manufacturing industry sector welcomed its newest arrival: impact resistant window and door manufacturer PGT Innovations. Headquartered in Sarasota County in Florida’s Tampa Bay region, PGT began operations at its newly leased 130,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing facility in Fort Myers in June. The plant, which runs 24/7, is expected to add 240 new jobs.
KEY PLAYERS:Global Tech LED, Bonita Springs; Pelican Wire, Naples; Shaw Development, Bonita Spring
Babcock Ranch, the self-contained, sustainable community that straddles portions of Charlotte and Lee counties, has been solar-powered with help from Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) almost from its very start.
Now, thanks to that same utility, solar energy is finally coming to residents in another Southwest county. In July 2021, Collier County commissioners approved the construction of their first solar energy plant in Immokalee on a nearly 600-acre plot of land where oranges formerly grew. Scheduled for completion by March 2022, the yet-to-be-named FPL solar plant will be capable of powering 15,000 homes.
Southwest Florida is home to Florida Gulf Coast University, which earned two spots on U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Regional Universities South” rankings: No. 68 among “Regional Universities South” and No. 16 among “Most Innovative Schools.” Since its opening in 1997, Florida Gulf Coast has grown to include 15,000 students working toward 63 undergraduate and 33 graduate degrees. Newly opened on the FGCU campus in fall 2021: Lucas Hall, a 27,000-sq.-ft., three-story building to house entrepreneurial programs, classes and students under one roof. Previously, entrepreneurial students had to take many of their classes at FGCU’s Emergent Technologies Institute, a 20-minute drive away from the main campus. And coming soon at FGCU: The Water School, a comprehensive center for learning and research devoted to water, with specialized curricula leading toward undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Also providing higher educational opportunities in this region are two private universities and a state college: Hodges University with campuses in Naples and Fort Myers; Ave Maria, a Catholic university and town created by Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan; and Florida SouthWestern State College offering baccalaureate, associate and certificate programs at sites in Punta Gorda, Naples, Fort Myers and LaBelle, as well as a Corporate Training Center in Bonita Springs, where programs can be tailored specifically to the needs of Southwest employers.