The Villages kick-starts new industrial corridor

The CSX S Line, the rail carrier’s major rail line in Florida, traverses Sumter County. It will provide businesses within the Florida Crossroads Industrial Activity Center with direct access to commercial ocean shipments through Port Miami and points northward.

The Villages just became the linchpin in a plan to bring about 20,000 new jobs to the area over the next 10 years.

The Sumter County Commission on Tuesday unanimously greenlighted the Developer’s plan for a 1.75 million-square-foot industrial park, a move that will ignite a growth corridor along 4,000 acres south of Wildwood, said Commission Chairman Al Butler.

“The Villages is going to get us kick-started and really accelerate those efforts,” he said. “This is going to attract other people to take a serious look at the county.”

Commissioner Doug Gilpin, one of the county’s most vocal economic development proponents, agreed.

“For many years, this property sat with nothing going on,” he said. “With The Villages developing it, we know it will be successful and done properly. It opens the door for things that we’ve never been able to think about before. It shows that the bright future of what we planned for Sumter is starting to happen. And that is very energizing.”

The site, located on 431 acres south of Coleman and west of U.S. Highway 301, will also include up to 18,000 square feet of commercial space, according to the Developer’s rezoning application.

It’s all part of a much larger growth corridor officials are calling the Florida Crossroads Industrial Activity Center, a development plan launched 10 years ago and forecast by county officials to create thousands of jobs. The corridor’s proximity to a rail line that connects to Port Miami, which is booming thanks to the widening of the Panama Canal, makes it a natural hub for warehousing and distributing an enormous amount of goods, they say.

Gov. Rick Scott, who has campaigned on job creation, applauded the move.

“Since taking office, Florida’s hardworking businesses have created more than 1.5 million private-sector jobs,” Scott said in a statement. “This job creation would not have been possible without communities like The Villages.”

To improve access, a new interchange at the County Road 514 bridge that crosses Interstate 75 “is in the pipeline and will eventually be completed,” Gilpin said.

He noted that residents will see a personal upside because industrial and commercial developments pay more in taxes than homeowners.

“When you get industry to participate, it keeps residential taxes low,” he said.

David R. Corder is a senior writer with The Villages Daily Sun. He can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5241, or david.corder@thevillagesmedia.com.