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Logistics and Distribution
Companies in need of “easy-in, easy-out” logistics will find exactly what they need in Florida’s North Central. I-75 bisects the region on its way north from Miami to Atlanta, and Gainesville is the halfway point. Another hour to the north is I-10 at Lake City, providing easy access east to Jacksonville and west through Pensacola to New Orleans. And reasonably close to further facilitate trade are two deep-water ports: JaxPort (80 miles to the northeast) and Port Tampa Bay (130 miles to the south).
There’s air access here too. Gainesville Regional Airport offers an average of 16 daily departures on American and Delta airlines with nonstop services to/from Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas-Fort Worth and Miami. A recent upgrade at the airport includes a 15,200-sq.-ft., two-gate passenger terminal with expanded restrooms and a second food-and-beverage station, as well as a lactation room and outdoor pet relief area.
Logistics firms that have clustered here in recent years include FedEx, Chewy.com, Dollar Tree and Amazon, with more expected as this region’s warehouse capacity continues to grow.
• Work continues on a second phase of Red Rock Development’s Florida Crossroads Logistics project in Ocala to include 1.5 million square feet. of warehouse space in the I-75 industrial corridor near distribution centers belonging to Amazon, AutoZone and Chewy.com.
• Construction has begun on Trailhead Logistics Park in Ocala. The 943,426-sq.-ft. spec warehouse on 64 acres located on CR 484 west of I-75 anticipates completion by December 2022.
KEY PLAYERS: Amazon, Seattle, Wa.; Chewy.com, Dania Beach; FedEx, Memphis, Tenn.
With an abundance of sunshine and wide-open spaces, North Central Florida continues to draw interest in solar energy development from Florida’s two primary providers: Duke Energy Florida and Florida Power & Light (FPL).
In July 2021, Duke announced plans to add four new 74.9-MW solar facilities across the Florida peninsula, three of which were to be located in the North Central region — one each in Suwannee, Levy and Alachua counties. Construction was expected to begin in early 2022 but, to date, all three remain on the drawing board as Duke shifts gears to accommodate 10 sites for its new “Clean Energy Connection” solar program. The first of these sites — the Fort Green Renewable Energy Center located in South Central’s Hardee County — opened in June 2022. Completion dates for the pending North Central facilities have yet to be determined.
Meanwhile, FPL continues pushing toward completion of its “30-by-30” plan to install 30 million solar panels in Florida by 2030. As of summer 2021, the firm was on track to have installed 15 million panels by 2022 putting FPL more than 50% toward realizing its goal.
In other energy news, a research team at the University of Florida has developed a system that can provide energy for homes during prolonged power outages. The Intelligent Control System is powered by rooftop solar energy and a battery that uses artificial intelligence to decrease the cost of keeping essential home appliances and other electronic devices running. The system has been tested through real-time computer simulations, and the next step is to install, deploy and test a real system in a house or similar-sized building, a process that could cost as much $100,000.