$6M grant To improve road access

Gov. Ron DeSantis, from left, is joined by Senate President Wilton Simpson and Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault at DZ Precast Solutions in Sumterville to announce a $6 million award to Sumter County from the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund to improve access to the Gov. Rick Scott Industrial Park.

Economic activity at the Gov. Rick Scott Industrial Park has snagged $6 million in state funding to expand County Road 525E, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Monday. “This is going to be really significant,” DeSantis said from DZ Precast Solutions, a concrete manufacturer there. “The project is expected to create about 5,000 direct jobs and almost 2,000 indirect jobs. That’s high-demand jobs — manufacturing and construction.”

The complex has been humming since the first business opened there last year.

The industrial projects combined are projected to add $632 million to Sumter County’s gross domestic product and an additional $336 million in personal income to county residents.

“There’s already been $100 million invested in this industrial park,” DeSantis said. “We want to make sure to continue to keep that momentum going. These strategic investments, that’s the reason we have (the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund). We want to see where can we do the most work that will have the biggest impact. This is going to be very positive.”

The Gov. Rick Scott Industrial Park is just south of Coleman between U.S. Highway 301 and Interstate 75 and is served by a CSX rail spur.

DZ Corporation, which includes DZ Precast Solutions, DZ Concrete and DZ Block, has heavily invested there.

“We’re very excited to be here,” said Rick Rhodes, CEO of DZ Corporation. “Ultimately, we’ll be providing hundreds of jobs within this industrial park. We’re very proud to be part of this.”

DZ Corporation currently has about 20 to 30 job openings, Rhodes said.

“We’re not just producing a product,” he said. “What we’re doing here is offering high-level jobs and actually doing on-the-job training. And it’s not in Texas or California, it’s right here in our backyard in Sumter County.”

Other businesses at the Gov. Rick Scott Industrial Park include Mico Customs, The Villages Commercial Design Division and The Villages Daily Sun printing plant.

Future plans in the area include an even larger Rep. Marlene O’Toole Industrial Park to the east of U.S. 301, which will have about 7 million square feet of light industrial space, and the 2,000-acre Monarch Grove Industrial Area to the north.DeSantis said these industrial developments will continue to add high-quality jobs in the area. “You see more and more of this type of manufacturing being developed in Florida,” he said. “You look at Sumter, there’s so many opportunities where folks want to move operations here.”

DeSantis lauded the construction industry for driving the state’s economy during the pandemic.

“During COVID, some of these people weren’t even allowed to operate plants in other states,” he said. “In Florida, we wanted to make sure construction continued apace. We understood how important that was.”

The $6 million state grant will go toward expanding CR 525E from two lanes to four lanes on a 1.5-mile stretch from U.S. 301 to CR 514.

The partnership between the state and Sumter County is an important one, said Kevin Thibault, Department of Transportation secretary.

“We’re also getting close to announcing a partnership that we’ll be working with them on U.S. 301 to improve that facility to help the mobility and safety in the region,” he said. “It’s great to leverage those partnerships, and we look forward to continuing the growth and economic development we have here in Sumter County.”

The county will move quickly to complete a design study for the CR 525E road expansion and the job could go out to bid in the first quarter of 2022, said County Administrator Bradley Arnold.  

Specialty Editor Keith Pearlman can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5347, or keith.pearlman@thevillagesmedia.com.