DeSoto • Glades • Hardee • Hendry • Highlands • Okeechobee
Called “Florida’s Heartland” for good reason, the South Central region is rooted in the state’s history in ranching and agriculture. Most of the region is just a short hour’s drive from major urban areas in Sarasota, Fort Myers and Naples, but has managed to hang on to its homespun feel and down-home culture. With plenty of room to grow, the region also has become a center of solar power, and hundreds of thousands of acres are being set aside for conservation as part of the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
The Downtown Sebring Community Redevelopment Agency has been acquiring prime properties in the downtown district poised for redevelopment and created a program to attract businesses to occupy these properties. Among them, a 10-room boutique hotel and an Irish pub on Sebring’s downtown circle in a circa 1917 building originally constructed as a hotel. Gavaghan’s Irish Pub takes up the ground flood, and the Roanoke Hotel occupies the second floor.
In Sebring in Highlands County, The Parc is a 15-acre resort dedicated to offering comfortable, upscale “tree canopy cottages” for short-term vacation rentals. The resort will open with six cabins, with a goal of adding another 24 cabins over the next five years. Visitors will be fully immersed in nature while still enjoying creature comforts like air-conditioned cottages, organic mosquito control, a swimming pond, and indoor and outdoor showers. The resort also is home to a new farm-to-table restaurant. The Academy at the PARC offers instruction in metalsmithing, woodworking, cooking, food preservation and wild food foraging.
Sebring International Golf Resort, no more than a two-hour drive from major Florida tourist attractions, offers four courses and 21 Resort Club Cabins available either as a rental or for purchase as investment properties managed by the resort. Meanwhile the famed Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring car race is held each March at Sebring International Raceway.
Florida’s Heartland is getting a boost from the state’s Broadband Opportunity Program, which is funding expansion of critical internet access in Florida’s unserved communities.
In DeSoto County, the town of Nocatee and unincorporated Brownsville will use $1.7 million received through Florida’s Broadband Opportunity Grant Program to provide services to 1,313 unserved and underserved residential customers.
Glades Electric Cooperative will be implementing more than $20 million in funding to expand broadband services within the region. The utility has secured more than $10.5 million through Florida’s Broadband Infrastructure Program in addition to two Broadband Opportunity Program awards of $5 million each. Glades Electric is partnering with rural internet service provider Conexon Connect to launch and deploy a nearly 2,600-mile fiber-to-the-home network to approximately 13,600 customers.
Hendry County-owned Airglades International Airport is just 100 miles north of Miami and making a play for trade in flowers, fish and other perishable cargo to and from Latin America. Less than four-years-old, the airport is developing a state-of-the-art perishable cargo airport and full-service logistics center. The Airglades facility will feature a new 10,000-foot runway and provide services for international perishable importers and domestic growers. In 2019, AIA received the FAA Record of Decision and in 2020, Airglades Airport was designated a U.S. Customs Port of Entry Inspection Facility.
The city of Clewiston Wastewater Treatment Plant will receive $11 million of federal and state funding to upgrade and expand the facility, which was constructed in the 1980s.
Bay Pines VA recently broke ground on a Department of Veterans Affairs clinic in Sebring. Construction will continue through 2024 with an anticipated opening date of spring 2025. The facility will span 14,600 square feet and aims to serve more than 5,000 veterans annually.