Concrete and steel are steadily rising at the Gov. Rick Scott Industrial Park, a massive project that’s expected to bring about 20,000 new jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue to the area over the next decade. “The pace of development has been truly spectacular,” said Frank Calascione, Sumter County’s economic development director, of the 431-acre site just south of Coleman between U.S. Highway 301 and Interstate 75. 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. The industrial park has the designed capacity of 1.75 million square feet for industrial and 18,000 square feet more for commercial. The site — named for a governor who frequently visited The Villages and campaigned on job creation — already has attracted several companies: DZ Block, a maker of concrete blocks; Mico Customs, a construction services company; The Villages Commercial Design Division; and a printing plant being built by The Villages Daily Sun. Each is expected to be operational over the next two years.
Officials tout the corridor’s proximity to Florida’s tech-triangle of UF, USF and UCF, as well as a rail line connecting to Port Miami makes it a natural hub for shipping and storing an enormous amount of goods.
“The more commercial, industrial and agribusiness companies that locate and grow in Sumter County, the more it helps us to diversify the overall tax base,” said Sumter Commission Chairman Steve Printz. “In time, those investments will create more industrial-manufacturing tax revenue that will offset the burden now carried by homeowners.”
Calascione also pointed to other “spinoffs” from the project that are expected to lift the local economy.
“Everything from unexpected parts, supplies, health care services, automotive repairs, restaurant orders will be needed by those businesses and employees working in the park,” he said.
The Villages, which is developing the industrial park, has received CSX approval to build a rail spur off carrier’s S-Line, which extends from Miami to links as far north as Montreal, Canada, said CSX spokeswoman Cindy Schild.
The Sumter County commission recently approved $500,000 in economic development incentives to assist in making the rail access possible.
“Before this opportunity, the county did not have a railhead for companies that wanted to ship or distribute via rail,” Printz said. “So, we were somewhat restricted. This public-private partnership creates incentives for companies to relocate here or to expand here.”
One benefit of such partnerships is fewer large trucks on local roads, said Jessica Kahanek, a spokeswoman for the Association of American Railroads.
“Without these partnerships, many projects that would provide substantial public benefits, such as reduced highway congestion or increased rail capacity for passenger trains as well as private freight railroad benefits, would likely be delayed or deferred as neither side could justify the full investment on their own,” she said. “At a time when public transportation dollars are scarce, public-private partnerships offer an opportunity to leverage these limited funds and put shovels in the ground. This proven model is a win-win for all involved.”
Senior writer David R. Corder can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5241, or email@example.com.