Lake Wales Medical Center leaders put a premium on community

lake_wales_medical_center (300x169)Truly, we’re a fortunate group here at the Lake Wales Economic Development Council. Our roster of EDC partner-members is brimming with people whose interest in the future of greater Lake Wales — an interest in a better future — goes well beyond the walls of the businesses and organizations that employ them. The decision each of them made to invest corporate or other resources in the economy-building work of the EDC is a great example of that interest, but it’s not the only example — not by a long shot.

 

Consider the broad community-minded work of the people at Lake Wales Medical Center. The hospital has been with the Lake Wales EDC as an investor-partner since the very start of the EDC, as an arm of the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce, in 2013. In addition to the extremely vital and quality health and medical services it provides around the clock to area residents and visitors, the hospital donates tens of thousands of dollars each year to local charitable, service, and youth organizations. The hospital also helps to raise thousands of dollars more each year for other charities and foundations, it offers many free health education services to the public, it regularly makes its meeting facilities available at no charge to various community groups, and it even donates kitchen staff time to help people in need.

 

“We like to say that ‘Care starts here and spreads through the whole community.’ ” Maryemma Bachelder, the hospital’s director of marketing, told me recently.

 

Founded in 1930, Lake Wales Medical Center is owned and operated by Community Health Systems. It’s the community’s largest private employer, with the equivalent of 520 full-time employees. The hospital is served by 50 active physicians and 50 additional consulting physicians. Andrew Howard is the hospital’s chief executive officer, a position he’s held since March 2014. Before that, he served as the hospital’s assistant chief executive officer. At the EDC, we’re grateful that in addition to his busy work at the hospital, Andrew volunteers some of his time to serve on the council’s board of directors.

 

During my conversation with Maryemma, I learned a lot about the Lake Wales Medical Center’s involvement with a variety of outside organizations and investment in the community. In 2015 alone, the hospital’s direct sponsorships and donations came to about $20,000. The hospital sponsored or co-sponsored the Polk County Senior Games basketball events in Lake Wales, the annual Pioneer Days and Orange Blossom Revue festivals, local youth baseball and softball programs, and the Ridge Soccer Association, just to name a few groups and activities. The hospital staff also helped to raise $5,000 for the American Heart Association through the annual Polk County Heart Walk event.

 

During the recent holiday season, Lake Wales Medical Center donated 800 pounds worth of food to nine local families in need. “Some of these were large families, some with a lot of kids,” Maryemma said. “One family had nine children.” In addition, the hospital’s clinics donated 20 bicycles that were given away to children as Christmas gifts through the Lake Wales Care Center. In a year-round effort to help many of the area’s elderly residents, the hospital is deeply involved with the Lake Wales Meals on Wheels program. “All the meals for Meals on Wheels are prepared in our kitchen, and volunteers come to the hospital to pick them up for delivery,” Maryemma said. She said more than 100 hot meals are prepared each weekday for Meal on Wheels clients, most of them elderly shut-ins.

 

In another form of giving not long ago, the hospital completed a $1.3 million campus-improvement and beautification project that included fresh paint for its buildings and the addition of new awnings, landscaping, lighting, and signage. Maryemma said that most of the work was done by Lake Wales and Polk County contractors. “That was intentional,” she said. “We wanted to make every effort to hire area companies and keep our local dollars local.”

 

There’s no room for doubt about the focus the Lake Wales Medical Center management team has for improving not only the care the hospital provides but also the community it serves.

 

“It just makes sense that as the biggest employer in Lake Wales, we want to be a part of the community and to help it thrive and continue to grow,” Maryemma shared with me. “That’s why we’re a member of the EDC and chamber of commerce (in the President’s Circle, the highest level of membership) and a partner with so many other organizations here in the community.

 

“We believe that a rising tide raises all boats,” Maryemma said, “so the bottom line is, we want to do everything we can to help improve the economy. We want to be here providing great care for our community while we also help our community to grow.”

 

I said early on that the Lake Wales EDC is fortunate to have a bunch of member-partners with the kind of community spirit — spirit in action — exhibited by the management and staff at Lake Wales Medical Center. I’ll add to that here: Greater Lake Wales is fortunate, too.

 

NOTE: I’ve shared in this column just a little bit of information about Lake Wales Medical Center. You can learn much more about the hospital through its information-packed and easy-to-navigate website. You’ll find it at www.lakewalesmedicalcenter.com.

Let’s build in 2016 on the momentum from economic development in 2015

The holiday season is always a time of reflection and expectation — reflection upon the year just past and expectation and anticipation about what the new year might bring.

At the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council, we can look back on 2015 and be pleased — and grateful — for a large number of announced new business projects for greater Lake Wales. We also are very optimistic that the level of economic development activity this year will provide a springboard for even greater activity in 2016.

A couple of columns back, we reviewed the scope of local business-recruiting and job-boosting efforts going back to mid-2014, and, by all accounts, it was a very good list — strong evidence that economic development in and for the region is moving in the right direction. Projects like the new Merlin Magic Making regional headquarters and Intrepid Precast Inc. light industrial plant, both for Longleaf Business Park, established excellent momentum for local economic development.

How do we continue and build on that momentum? There area several ways, and topping the list is the recruitment of more people and more established companies in the economic development effort. This is a great enterprise, and we want more people to be involved in it! David Fisher, the new chairman of the board of the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce and EDC, made that a focus of his comments when he assumed the board chairmanship a few weeks ago. He said one of his top goals is to increase EDC membership and increase participation in the economic development process.

The list of 2016 Lake Wales EDC partners is a fine one, and this end-of-the-year column provides another great opportunity to mention and thank each partner:
• Bunting, Tripp & Ingley CPAs
• C-12 Group
• CenterState Bank
• Chemical Containers Inc.
• Citizens Bank & Trust
• City of Lake Wales
• Duke Energy
• Envisors
• Florida’s Natural Growers
• Hunt Bros. Inc.
• Joseph F. Miranda Co.
• Lake Wales Charter Schools
• Lake Wales Medical Center
• Pat Cain Wealth Solutions / Raymond James
• Peterson & Myers, PA
• Polk State College
We hope you will consider adding the name of your business or organization to this list. Lake Wales is a friendly and welcoming place to do business, and our EDC partners reflect and showcase that in their daily work and in their involvement in economic development.

The EDC is charged with bringing in new businesses and industries to Lake Wales, but we as a agency can’t do it alone. It takes a team effort, involving not only our partners but also local government and other economic development organization, and there’s lots of room on this team for you! The work is worthwhile and the benefits are rewarding. Successful and sustained economic development and growth is a win-win for everyone.

From the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce and EDC to each of you, have a merry Christmas and happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

U.S. 27 alternative would be a boost to local economic development

Anyone who’s had to travel U.S. Highway 27 between Lake Wales and Interstate 4 knows that it’s a busy stretch of highway. Very busy. Some might even use the word congested — and that’s despite a steady stream of widening and improvement projects through the years.

 

It’s easy to understand why U.S. 27 is so well traveled. Polk County’s population is increasing at a significant clip — particularly on the eastern side — putting more motorists on the highway. The transportation and distribution segments of the Polk economy are booming, as evidenced by the new CSX Intermodal Rail Terminal in south Winter Haven and the expansion of Oakley Transport Inc. in Lake Wales, just to give two examples. Overall commerce is picking up all over the county. The four-year-old Legoland Resort in Winter Haven is wildly popular as a family tourism destination. And, as every transportation planner and anyone with a vehicle knows, U.S. 27 is the only major option for a north-south route on Polk’s east side.

 

If it’s slow going now on U.S. 27 — and it is, fed by many east-west roads and sprinkled heavily with traffic lights — imagine what the traffic will be like in just a few years if something isn’t done soon to provide some motoring relief. Polk County’s population now stands roughly at 635,000 (a U.S. Census Bureau estimate put it at 634,638 for 2014), but projections have the population pushing 1 million by 2040. That’s an estimated 300,000 more residents for Polk in just 25 years, with the trends already showing that population growth on the county’s east side — along the U.S. 27 corridor — will outpace the growth on the west side. As large as it is (larger than the state of Rhode Island), Polk County has plenty of room for 300,000 more residents, but most of its roads — U.S. 27 in particular — don’t have the capacity for the vehicles these new residents will drive or the extra trucking of goods that will be required to support many more consumers here.

 

In the matter of roads, something has to give, the Polk Vision Economic Development Committee was told recently. The “something” likely will have to be the Florida Legislature, with the gift being an agreement to send a good-size slice of state transportation dollars to Polk County.

 

William Roll of Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc., a Lakeland-based engineering planning firm, spoke to the Polk Vision committee about the need for alternative transportation routes in Polk County and the keys to managing transportation to support positive economic growth. Much of his presentation was about East Polk and U.S. 27, which, for the critical miles from Lake Wales in the south to I-4 in the north, has been expanded almost to the limit possible.

 

One vision for an alternate north-south route for East Polk — the eastern leg of the proposed six-lane, limited-access Central Polk Parkway (CPP) — already is in place (and has been since the Florida Department of Transportation proposed it in 2008), but the details, the designs, the engineering, the approvals, and funding for the route are not. So far, the western leg of the CPP, a 10-mile stretch extending southeasterly from the Polk Parkway near Winter Haven to State Road 60 east of Bartow, has received nearly all of the state funding for design work. The proposed 30-mile-long eastern leg of the CPP would extend from S.R. 60 east of Bartow to the east side of U.S. 27 and then take a northerly route to I-4, terminating near the Polk-Osceola County line. The eastern leg of the CPP roughly would parallel U.S. 27, on the eastern side of the older highway, from the Waverly area up to I-4.

 

Though the Central Polk Parkway has regional support — including resolutions for the highway’s further development from the Lake Wales and Winter Haven chambers of commerce — planning for and spending on the CPP aren’t far enough along to guarantee that the superhighway will be built. Additional voices supporting the parkway need to be heard to keep the project on the radar of state lawmakers.

 

If the Central Polk Parkway, in its fullest concept to date, isn’t funded, a solid Plan B to take the ever-increasing traffic load off U.S. 27 will have to be proposed and implemented. The longer the wait, the more expensive it will be to build another multi-lane, limited-access north-south highway for East Polk. Obviously, the resolution mentioned earlier puts the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council squarely behind the CPP. If the state Legislature can’t quickly fund the parkway’s eastern leg, the next best option would be to build at least the parkway portion from I-4 south to or through Haines City. Use of this first portion of the parkway’s eastern leg will help to show transportation planners and legislators with the power of the purse the kind of traffic volume a completed parkway can support and divert away from U.S. 27.

 

For the growth and well-being of greater Lake Wales, the drive time to and from the Orlando market — for commuters as well as for tourists and truckers — needs to be kept to a minimum. If it’s not, if the congestion builds and the drive time gets longer, the community is going to miss out on significant economic development. Companies that come knocking on Lake Wales’ door for new manufacturing locations, warehouse sites, or distribution hubs want to know that the area is served by good roads and highways. They want to know that products and people can be moved about quickly and efficiently. Funding for the Central Polk Parkway — or a good Plan B highway — would show new company prospects that were serious here about having a healthy system of transportation arteries.

LWEDC report to Lake Wales City Commission is loaded with positives

Optimism about the future of economic development in greater Lake Wales is scaling new heights, bolstered by a considerable amount of positive local business news from the past 16 months or so. That news was summarized in a Lake Wales Economic Development Council (EDC) report and presentation to the Lake Wales City Commission on Oct. 6.

 

For those who couldn’t attend the commission meeting, I’d like to take the opportunity in this month’s EDC column to share the highlights from the presentation. After you read through the list, I think — I hope — you’ll agree with those of us at the Lake Wales EDC that the business-recruiting and job-boosting efforts for the region are heading in the right direction.

 

  • So far in 2015, the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce and LWEDC has had a role in working 25 industrial- or distribution-sector leads, with business payrolls ranging from five to 400 jobs. The leads have come from a variety of sources, including Enterprise Florida Inc., the Central Florida Development Council (CFDC), other local EDCs, and business site-selection consultants.

 

  • In the biggest local economic development news so far this year, Merlin Entertainments, the parent company of the nearby LEGOLAND Florida Resort, announced in July that it had purchased the former Harley Davidson building in Longleaf Business Park. The building will be the regional home for Merlin Magic Making, Merlin Entertainments’ sixth — and largest — team of model builders and designers. The center will support as many as 60 new jobs, paying an average wage of $45,000 per year. Remodeling work at the old motorcycle dealership building is under way, with “magic-making” operations expected to start there before the end of December.

 

  • The city of Lake Wales, the Lake Wales EDC and Intrepid Precast Inc. negotiated a deal for land in Longleaf Business Park. Intrepid Precast is a maker of site walls, security walls, privacy walls, and noise walls (including noise walls for the Florida Department of Transportation). The company will operate from a new industrial building at least 100,000 square feet in size and will create anywhere from 50 to 100 jobs.

 

  • FMX Inc., a Jacksonville-based transportation and logistics company, is now operational with a new hub and 45 employees on Old South Lake Wales Road.

 

  • Grow Healthy Holdings purchased a former Sealy Mattress plant on South Acuff Road in Lake Wales. The company has plans to cultivate marijuana plants indoors and produce therapeutic cannabis oil under strict state regulations. The oil is used in special situations to treat cancer and epilepsy. Grow Healthy owners are waiting for additional approvals to move ahead with construction at the old mattress plant. The company could employ as many as 75 people there.

 

  • Oakley Transport Inc., a distributor of liquid food products, announced plans for a $1.5 million expansion of its trucking facility on ABC Road in Lake Wales and the creation of 103 new jobs.

 

  • American Garden Perlite LLC, a maker of non-organic water-retention additives for potting soil, is opening a manufacturing plant on Airport Road and is expected to create approximately 10 jobs.

 

  • A 400,000-square-foot office-warehousing complex has been completed at the Central Florida Intermodal Logistics Center in south Winter Haven, just a few miles west of Lake Wales. The complex is ideal for companies that can use and support the adjacent CSX Intermodal Rail Terminal, the world’s most advanced rail-to-truck and truck-to-rail cargo transfer facility.

 

  • The pace of local commercial, retail and office construction has picked up considerably. Companies with current or recently completed construction projects (new buildings or renovations) in the past 18 months include the following: Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Ridge Quality Motors, Dunkin’ Donuts, Brock’s Smokehouse, Mattress Firm, Anita’s Mexican Restaurant, Tacos Daniel, Rural King, Budget Inn, Dawn’s Flower Patch, Westgate River Ranch (expansion), O’Reilly Auto Parts, Egg House, McDonald’s, Medical Center at Eagle Ridge, and Family Elder Law (Lake Wales office).

 

  • Inquiries related to Longleaf Business Park have increased significantly in the past six months. Land and buildings at the industrial park are now being professionally brokered, and park buildings 11 and 12 are undergoing repairs and upgrades.

 

In addition to all of these business and industrial activities, the Lake Wales EDC is positioning itself for more effective business recruiting. The EDC is well into a two-year action plan that involves increased agency marketing, attendance at more trade shows, implementation of a new program for leads tracking and follow-up, and development of a comprehensive local property database.

 

To borrow a phrase, “We have a strategic plan. It’s called doing things.” But, we’re not doing things alone and we can’t — and won’t — take all the credit for the local economic development successes going back almost a year and a half. We have a lot of terrific partners in this regional economic development effort — from the city of Lake Wales on up through the CFDC and Enterprise Florida — and we’re all working for the common economic good.

 

With all the great news we had to report to the Lake Wales City Commission in early October, we have every reason to believe that the next presentation will be just as exciting.

City-EDC partnership producing successful Lake Wales economic development

Economic development is a highly rewarding endeavor with a high return on investment, made all the more enjoyable by the quality partnerships that make it all possible. Had it not been for those partnerships, we at the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council might not be celebrating — still! — the recent recruitment to the city of a key unit of Merlin Entertainments, the parent company of the Legoland Florida Resort.

 

Several organizations and government agencies had key roles in the effort to bring Merlin Magic Making to Longleaf Business Park — a project that justifiably grabbed a lot of media headlines but by no means is the only successful economic development story we’ve had to tell in Lake Wales this past year.  One of those highly involved organizations and agencies was the Lake Wales EDC’s closest partner — and closest partner by design — the city of Lake Wales.

 

For the past two years, the Lake Wales EDC has been under contract, at a rate of $125,000 per year, to serve as the city of Lake Wales’ primary economic development agency. At one time, economic development and business recruitment were tasks that occupied one or more city departments and/or officials, but the majority opinion today — based on experience and results— is that economic development is best done by independent agencies that work for and in tandem with government.

 

There are so many moving parts to city government and daily challenges to meet, economic development as a role of government usually doesn’t get the kind of focus it can get from a dedicated agency, like an EDC. In addition, government in Florida is subject to the state’s open-records law — the Sunshine Law. This makes it difficult for government officials to provide prospective new businesses the cloak of confidentiality their owners want and expect when negotiations are under way for site selection, services, tax and financial incentives, and other business-recruitment matters. A private and autonomous agency, like the Lake Wales EDC, can operate at arm’s length from government — but on behalf of government — and provide business owners a higher level of comfort and confidentiality as they shop for a new or additional operational site.

 

We at the EDC want to deliver a service that doesn’t burden or cause a perceived risk for a prospective new or existing company. We want to streamline the process in matters related to site selection and development, zoning, planning, utilities, inspections, and incentives; and, when appropriate, we want to share potentially useful business relationships that we’ve already made. Enterprise Florida (the state’s economic development arm), the Polk County government, the Central Florida Development Council, and, particularly in our case, the Lake Wales city government, all help during that process — providing research, information, resources, technical assistance, and feedback — to make it as easy as possible.

 

It’s a real pleasure to work with the leaders, managers and staffers at Lake Wales City Hall. For the Lake Wales EDC to be effective and successful in business recruitment, it’s of upmost importance that highly competent, skilled, and dedicated people be placed in the key positions in city government. That’s exactly what we have in City Manager Kenneth Fields, Mayor Eugene Fultz, and the entire team they have assembled for our City. They all make the job we’re expected to do here at the Lake Wales EDC an easier and efficient process, and the business community is grateful for that.

Regional economic development approach is a winner; Merlin Magic Making coming to former Harley Davidson dealership site in Lake Wales

Regional economic development — the sharing, collaborating, coordinating and cooperating kind of approach — works almost every time it’s tried. There’s a perfect example of that in the tremendous economic development news that broke in our own backyard just a few weeks ago.

Taking you back to July 20, Merlin Entertainments, the parent company of the nearby Legoland Florida Resort and the world’s second largest attractions operator, announced that it was expanding its Central Florida operations — its worldwide operations, really — and doing it at two locations right here in eastern Polk County.

A site in the Longleaf Business Park in south Lake Wales — the very nice building once occupied several years ago by a Harley Davidson motorcycle dealership — will become the regional home for Merlin Magic Making, described by Merlin Entertainments as “the creative heart of the business.”

Merlin Magic Making employees — in 13 sites internationally — are “thinkers, dreamers, doers, (and) achievers,” the company says, “tasked with designing and delivering world-class attractions, hotels, and other major projects around the globe.”

In addition, all the Merlin Magic Making model builders for this area will work at Longleaf Business Park, which really will be Merlin Entertainments’ hub for creative operations in the eastern United States. The company’s sixth team of model builders and designers, making their magic in Lake Wales with the aid of sophisticated computer hardware and software, will help to support the expanding Legoland Resorts and Legoland Discovery Centers around the world.

In the July announcement, Merlin Entertainments said it also had secured a downtown Winter Haven site rich in IT infrastructure and support for use as a new customer care center.

Officials with Merlin Entertainments tell us that each of its two new East Polk centers will be fully operational by this fall and that each initially will employ about 50 people. If the company needs to increase services and employment, the properties in Lake Wales and Winter Haven are well situated for future expansion.

Merlin Entertainments’ selection of East Polk locations for the Merlin Magic Making shop and customer care center is nothing short of marvelous, because these two operations — especially the Merlin Magic Making portion for Lake Wales — could have gone anywhere. By anywhere, I mean anywhere outside of East Polk, anywhere outside of Polk County and even anywhere outside of Florida. Even with Legoland Florida Resort located just outside of the Winter Haven city limits and just a few miles from Lake Wales, Merlin Entertainments had many suitors for its new centers. From an economic development/business-recruiting perspective, these were highly competitive projects.

Lake Wales came into play as a possible location for one of the Merlin centers well more than a year ago. That was after plans to put both centers in Winter Haven could not be worked out. The team here at the Lake Wales Economic Development Council worked with Bruce Lyon, the president of the Winter Haven Economic Development Council, and his team to marry the projects together in a way would keep them close to one another but in separate and more suitable locations.

A lot of parts were moving to get this done — to meet the needs, goals, and objectives of Merlin Entertainments, and to further develop and diversify the local economy. The Lake Wales and Winter Haven EDCs were involved, of course, but so was the Central Florida Development Council, Enterprise Florida at the state level, the city commissions in Lake Wales and Winter Haven, and the Polk County Commission. They all came together to do a great thing for our customer and a great thing for our county.

This is a perfect example of regional collaboration — the way we would like for all of these projects to happen. This is how regional economic development works for all of us, rather than having just one community trying to keep a new business project all to itself.

Work to put a planned new $200 million Walmart distribution center in Davenport is another good example of collaborative regional economic development. This distribution center has the potential to create more than 600 jobs — jobs with good wages and jobs just 30 minutes away in a drive from Lake Wales.  Lake Wales EDC was not directly involved with the Walmart distribution center project but Lake Wales residents will benefit from the job opportunities.

Closer to home, the Lake Wales EDC and its economic development partners see the new Merlin Entertainments projects as being a win for Winter Haven and Lake Wales, a win for Polk County and Florida, and a win for the company. When it came time to choose one or more sites for expansion, Merlin Entertainments ultimately chose our area, and we’re thrilled about that!

A growth mindset is a huge plus in pursuing economic development – Why not us?

Challenging. Rewarding. Enriching. Satisfying. A lot of words can be used to describe economic development, but these four consistently rise to the top of the list.

Among the many people involved in the work of economic development in and for greater Lake Wales, “challenging” is used in the most positive sense — demanding in a way that’s interesting, competitive and enjoyable. It’s the kind of challenge that would prompt me to leave a regional leadership post with the Indiana Economic Development Corp. — and business recruiting work in the Chicago area — and happily come to more rural Central Florida 14 months ago to help expand and diversify the economy here — to be a part of something special and exciting.

When new businesses are recruited, when existing businesses are expanded or retained and when industries are created, then comes the fruit of the labor — the reward of knowing that the community is being helped in a positive and meaningful way.

When new businesses are recruited, when existing businesses are expanded or retained and when industries are created, then comes the fruit of the labor — the reward of knowing that the community is being helped in a positive and meaningful way.

When there’s good, solid and sustained economic growth, people tend to have more choices, more opportunities and more income. That’s where enrichment comes in — not just for a select few, but for a much wider segment of the population at all wage-earning levels.

Some people wonder and ask: Can real economic development happen in Lake Wales? Is this the kind of community that can expand existing industries, and attract new businesses with above average wage jobs? The questions bring to mind a story from college football.

Many here will remember when University of Florida coaching legend Steve Spurrier was announced as the head football coach at South Carolina. Following a highly successful career with the Gators and two not-so-successful years coaching in the NFL, Spurrier had several good options for his next coaching stop. His choice of South Carolina, not exactly a football powerhouse in the way UF had become under his leadership, had a lot of people scratching their heads. One of the questions Spurrier took at his introductory press conference at South Carolina, in November 2004, went something like this: “What makes you think you can win at South Carolina like you did at Florida?”

His answer? “I’d like to borrow a phrase from the Boston Red Sox: ‘Why not us?’ Why can’t we get to the top of the SEC (Southeastern Conference)? Certainly, that’s going to be my vision and my goal.”

When it comes down to the possibilities for vibrant economic development for Lake Wales, we can echo Spurrier: “Why not us? Why not Lake Wales? Why not Central Florida?”

As we’ve described in this space a number of times, Lake Wales and southeast Polk County offer many amenities to any number of businesses looking to build or set up a branch operation in Central Florida. The task in economic development is to tell the great story about Lake Wales and the region to as many business leaders and site selectors as we can, as often as we can. In doing so, we have to be upbeat, optimistic and persistent.

As Carol Dweck, Ph.D., explains in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success — How We can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential, it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring success — in parenting, relationships, school or, in our case, business — but whether people approach them with a fixed or growth mindset.

In the work of economic development, success doesn’t just happen, and it doesn’t happen overnight, but with a growth mindset — throughout the community — growth will happen. Like anything else worthwhile, you have to stick with it, maintain your vision and keep pursuing your goals.

So, why Lake Wales as a destination for new businesses? Why not Lake Wales? Why not us?

The Lake Wales EDC is happy to answer the quality-of-life question

When you take some time to think about the work of effective and sustained economic development, it doesn’t take long to realize that one of its chief goals, if not thechief goal, is to improve the quality of life — for everyone.

That’s usually what happens when an existing business expands operations, a compatible new business or industry comes to the town, or a combination of the two. Job opportunities increase, higher-wage jobs become available, families have more disposable income, the tax base expands, and government can more easily improve essential services and build on the recreational and leisure services already in place. Economic development done right invites

more economic development, and the cycle of prosperity repeats itself.

But what about the local quality of life as it measures now? Without a doubt, it’s a topic of conversation when the team at the Lake Wales Economic Development Council launches a business recruitment effort. It’s a topic that comes up when the team fields questions from companies that are giving the greater Lake Wales area some consideration as a potential business location. “What’s the quality of life there? What does the area have to offer for our company and its owners, managers, supervisors, and employees?”

Just within the Lake Wales EDC’s immediate sphere of operation and concentration, the short and honest answer is that the area offers a lot. Taking more of a regional approach, as the EDC team often does, the answer is “A lot and so much more.”

Think about it: Our location in southeast Polk County is a huge advantage for us. That would be those of us who already work and live here and for those of us in the business of economic development who want to see more people working and living here. Consider just a few of the many positives about Lake Wales — the positives we gladly pitch to site-selection personnel for prospective new businesses:

  • Generally, it’s quiet, peaceful, and relaxed here, minus the big-city crime and congestion.
  • The tax rates are low for everyone, the financial incentives for new businesses are plentiful, and the political environment for economic development is positive at every level of government.
  • The public and private schools are an asset, with business training programs in the vocational-technical and post-secondary institutions expanding with each passing year.
  • It’s a nature lover’s delight. Bok Tower, with its beautiful surrounding gardens, is a majestic focal point for Lake Wales, but close by we also find the Lake Wales Ridge National Wildlife Refuge, Tiger Creek Preserve, nature trails, parks, camping sites, and bird-watching areas.
  • It’s a sportsman’s paradise, with so many nearby places to enjoy boating, fishing and hunting.
  • For entertainment and culture, many area public and private organizations offer community theater productions; art centers, shows, and festivals; dance recitals; and music concerts and reviews.
  • Featuring Legoland Florida just a few minutes away and Walt Disney World less than an hour up the highway, theme park adventures are close at hand.
  • The variety of shopping and dining opportunities is large and ever expanding.
  • For those who like the occasional day or night trip to more metropolitan areas, Orlando, Tampa, and St. Petersburg aren’t far away.
  • It’s just an hour and a half to Florida’s east or west coast, a great advantage for anyone who likes to hit the beach, go saltwater fishing, or simply get out and explore.
  • And, for anyone who wants to travel beyond the borders of Florida, two of the nation’s finest international airports are located right here in Central Florida — one in Orlando and the other in Tampa.

The list of positives about greater Lake Wales could go on, but the message presented here with just a few examples is a great and compelling one: In the quality-of-life arena, Lake Wales stacks up with well — and often quite better — with any other community its size and with some even larger.

‘Intrigued’ by EDC purpose and goals, Pat Cain comes aboard as a partner

Occasionally in this space, I would like to take the opportunity to shine a spotlight on one of the many businesses and organizations that are directly involved with the Lake Wales Economic Development Council in the worthy work of local business building and job creation.pat_cain

These generous and very involved partners — and the fine individuals behind them — truly form the heart of the council, providing energy, ideas, expertise, leadership and financial resources for the exciting task at hand.

One of the Lake Wales EDC’s newest business partners is Pat Cain Wealth Solutions, a full-service financial-planning and investment company located in downtown Lake Wales. The company is owned by Pat Cain, a gentleman with deep roots in Lake Wales and a long history of community and public service.

If the EDC staff or any of the other council partners want some history about Lake Wales and some thoughtful perspective about where the community has been economically — and where it could go to help us all — Cain is one of the people to seek out.

Cain is a third-generation native of Lake Wales — “My family came here in 1919,” he says — and he now has grandchildren who are fifth-generation natives and residents of the city.

Cain says he was 15 or 16 years old when he landed his first job. He worked bundling newspapers on the weekends at the old Daily Highlander office in downtown Lake Wales, not far from his current investment office at 100 E. Stuart Ave. He says he would go to the newspaper office very early on weekend mornings, catch the papers as they came off the press and help bundle them in stacks of 50. “It was a tough job,” he recalls. “After a few hours of doing this, I would go home all black (from the newspaper ink).”

Cain went to Georgia Tech on a football scholarship but eventually transferred to the University of Florida, where he earned a degree in finance in 1969. Afterward, he went to work in his family’s auto parts and orange grove businesses. That lasted until 1986, when he got into investment work full time. Initially, he commuted to Lakeland daily to work at a Merrill Lynch office there, but soon he was back in Lake Wales, working at a branch investment office operated by Shearson Lehman Hutton. When that office closed due to the 1987 market crash. Cain joined Allen & Company for a few years before beginning his partnership with Raymond James in 1996.

“I’m an independent contractor; I own my own shop,” Cain says. Raymond James does the investment clearing work, provides the stock exchange floor traders, works through the regulatory requirements, produces the account statements and does the “due diligence” on investment projects.

A certified financial planner, Cain says he operates a “needs-based practice.”

“I have no preconceived solutions for my clients,” he says. “I tell them the advantages and disadvantages about any decisions they might make and then monitor their (investment) progress to help them stay on track.”

Cain’s business schedule has provided him with many opportunities through the years to get deeply involved in Lake Wales-area civic activities. Many people locally will remember the time he sat on the Lake Wales City Commission and served as mayor. He also was instrumental in the creation of the Lake Wales YMCA and in the work that saved and preserved the old Holy Spirit Catholic Church., the eventual home of the Polk State College Lake Wales Arts Center. Cain says he’s served or continues to serve with many booster clubs and boards, including the Lake Wales Charter Schools Board of Trustees, the Lake Wales Charter Schools Foundation and the Our Children’s Academy Board of Trustees.

More recently, Cain became involved with the Lake Wales Economic Development Council.

“I was intrigued by it when the idea of a public-private Lake Wales EDC first came up two or three years ago, and I wanted to be involved with that,” Cain says. “I support the marriage of the public and private efforts to diversify the economic base in Lake Wales. The citrus industry has its challenges, and we need to diversify the economic base.”

Cain says the CSX Central Florida Intermodal Logistics Center, a commercial truck-rail transportation hub on the southern edge of Winter Haven, near State Road 60, very well could be a bonanza to Lake Wales, too.

“I’m a firm believer that the CSX Intermodal facility, located within five miles of us, will help us to fill up our industrial park and diversify our economic base,” he says. “We’re recognized as the geographical center of the state with major east-west and north-south routes and 5 (million) to 6 million people located within a 50-mile radius of us. We’re a natural as a distribution hub for Florida.”

Cain says the goal of economic development is to create “more jobs, more rooftops, more restaurants, more culture and more entertainment.” And, he says, “I think all of that will happen if we all work together.”

The Lake Wales EDC is pleased to have Pat Cain Wealth Solutions on board as a partner and pleased to be working together with Pat Cain, a businessman and public servant who brings so much knowledge, experience and sense of local history to the economic development table.

“I certainly can recall a lot of things,” he says. “I hope that will be helpful.”

A business-friendly Florida aids local job-building efforts

It’s no secret that in the arena of business and industry recruitment, the competition is fierce, making the task of expanding the number and quality of jobs a challenging one for any economic development enterprise. That being said, it’s good to know at the local level that, here in Florida, our state leaders “get it” when it comes to business.

In the Governor’s Office, in the Cabinet-level offices and deep into the Legislature, the governing approach is pervasively pro-business and, more inclusively, pro-economic development.

In almost all of the major rankings of business-friendly states, Florida consistently is in the top 10, principally because of its favorable business tax structure; its government policies; its competitive costs in land, labor, and capital; its huge market; and its status as one of the nation’s few right-to-work states.

Last year, Florida got the attention of Chief Executive magazine, which ranked it as the nation’s second best state for business. The Sunshine State trailed only Texas in the ranking.

Talking with the magazine’s editors, Gov. Rick Scott said “it helps that we’ve cut taxes 25 times, by about $400 million.”

“When companies like Hertz, Amazon, Deutsche Bank, and Verizon add jobs here, it causes more people to look at us,” the governor said. “Business is comfortable that we’ll keep the tax base low and improve our workforce.”

It also helps that Florida leaders have made the state’s transportation system a priority for improvement. In particular, the state has invested more than $850 million in port infrastructure upgrades since 2011, a move that puts Florida in a better position to handle a higher volume of international products that will ship through a widened Panama Canal.

Just this month, Gov. Scott took the case for the state’s improved ports to California, where he and other members of a Sunshine State delegation met with West Coast cargo interests with hope they would move their operations to Florida.

Part of the message was this: Florida is uniquely positioned for international trade and commerce and the state has stepped up its efforts to compete for that commerce.

The trade trip to California represented a more aggressive approach to Florida’s business marketing efforts. The state has done a good job marketing Florida as a good and easy place to do business and telling how the Enterprise Florida program is designed to cut red tape and actually help businesses, but, as Texas has shown, there’s always room for improvement.

Sharing the Florida business story, with all of its positives, keeps the state top of mind with the out-of-state corporate site-selection and real estate professionals who routinely search for the best places to build, relocate or expand a business.

If government policies continue to be business friendly at the state level and if the state keeps improving its marketing message, economic development efforts at the regional, county and local levels can only benefit.

A great example of this how the state worked with Amazon, the Internet retail giant that wanted to establish operations in Florida for the first time. Not only did the Amazon executives decide to build in Florida, they chose Polk County for two of their warehouses — an order fulfillment center on the west side of Lakeland and a “sortation” center in the Davenport area.

Those are two positive Polk County stories that started with a positive business environment statewide. If Florida can first make the cut as a place for a company to do business, then the Lake Wales Economic Development Council and other local EDCs can compete internally for the privilege of hosting that company’s new office complex, manufacturing center, or industrial plant. In the end, all Floridians win.

A well-skilled workforce aids economic development efforts

Anyone who’s been involved with economic development for any length of time likely came to learn and understand this early on: Company leaders care about education. They care about the education and skill levels acquired and possessed by the people who work for them or who might one day work for them.

This is true particularly when it comes to business location and relocation. When expanding or even start-up companies consider their many site selection choices, workforce quality is always among the top three items on their wish lists. Great examples come from the manufacturing and industrial sectors, which require workforces with good math and science skills.

Where are these skills first taught? That would be in the local schools, of course.

Here in greater Lake Wales, we’re fortunate to have a number of quality schools — those in the Lake Wales Charter Schools system; those in the Polk County Public Schools; and those at the secondary level, such as Polk State College (represented locally by the JD Alexander Center and the Clear Springs Advanced Technology Center), Webber International University, and Warner University. Farther out, but not too far away, we’re served by the Ridge and Traviss vocational career centers and other secondary schools that now include the newly opened Florida Polytechnic University, the 12th institution in the State University System of Florida.

These schools are producing many fine graduates with a well-rounded education, good skills, and wonderful ways to serve their employers and their communities, but the need for more is great — especially in the manufacturing sector.

According to a just-released study by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, the United States faces a need for nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs within the next decade. However, according to the research, about 2 million of those jobs — from engineering to skilled production — very well could go unfilled due a skills gap.
The research also shows that while nine in 10 Americans believe manufacturing to be essential to the U.S. economy, only one in three parents would encourage their children to make manufacturing a career.

Craig Giffi, vice chairman of Deloitte LLP and a U.S. automotive sector leader summed up the situation this way:

“The research shows that 84 percent of manufacturing executives agree there is a talent shortage in U.S. manufacturing, and this gap will be exacerbated by more than 2.7 million professionals exiting the manufacturing workforce through retirement over the next ten years. Our research estimates that the cumulative skills gap — or the positions that likely won’t be filled due to a lack of skilled workers — will grow to 2 million between 2015 and 2025.”

About 82 percent of the manufacturing executives who took part in the research said that workforce shortages or skills deficiencies among their production employees have a significant impact on their ability to meet customer demand, implement new technologies, and increase productivity. The executives indicated that about 60 percent of their openings for skilled production jobs aren’t filled today due to a talent shortage.

When company leaders look at greater Lake Wales as a potential place to do business or build their products, they want to know whether the area can support their workforce requirements. They also want to know whether the schools, colleges, and universities can adapt quickly with student training to meet any growing or changing workforce needs.

We need to be ready for these companies when our community becomes a finalist for site selection. Even better, we need to be ready when companies first come knocking on our door.

Fortunately, we have several positive things going for us here. We already have a lot of existing coursework to help these companies’ employees. If the coursework isn’t available in the schools to meet specific and special needs, we can tap into workforce development programs, like the ones offered by CareerSource Polk. This is the public-private agency that connects employers with qualified and skilled talent and job seekers with employment and career development opportunities.

In addition, we’re fortunate to be located in a large population center, where skilled workers can be found within an hour’s drive in any direction.

Given the examples and research data mentioned earlier, it’s clear that vibrant economic development is dependent upon quality education and a well-skilled workforce. At the same time, education is better served when business is involved — offering financial and other resources, providing sponsorships and internships, and getting company leaders and employees in the schools as positive role models, mentors, and guest teachers.
We all win when education supports the needs of business and business supports the needs of education.

Financial incentives: The icing on the good cake of job creation in Lake Wales

Good year-round weather, a quality transportation infrastructure, an excellent business tax climate, a low-cost operating environment, and a pro-business mindset at most levels of government. All are positive reasons to start a new business or expand an existing one in Florida and, in particular, in greater Lake Wales.

 

Yet, there are even more reasons —financially beneficial reasons for the short and long term — for business owners or entrepreneurs to take a hard look at Lake Wales as a company home or a place to launch a satellite operation.

 

Depending on the type of enterprise, its size, the number of people it employs, the income potential for employees, and other factors, a company seeking to build in or relocate to Florida can qualify for one or more business and tax incentives. Offered at the state level on down, these incentives were put into place by forward-looking public leaders to encourage new business activity, develop new industry and foster job creation.

 

Here’s a brief overview of what’s available to a wide range of businesses through state and county partnerships with the Lake Wales Economic Development Council and the city of Lake Wales:

 

State incentives

 

Florida consistently gets high marks by the Tax Foundation in the organization’s annual State Business Tax Climate Tax Index — for 2015, the Sunshine State comes in at No. 5 — and the state extends its pro-business and low-tax policies with several economy-building incentives.

 

The Qualified Target Industry (QTI) Tax Refund is available to Florida communities to encourage job growth in certain high-value industries. Pre-approved applicants receive refunds on corporate income, sales, property and certain other taxes. To be eligible for the QTI, applicants must pay an average annual wage that is at least 115 percent of the state’s metropolitan statistical area (MSA) or the local average wage ($41,170 annually for Polk County). The amount of the refunds comes to about $3,000 per new job created. An additional $1,000 “per-job” bonus is available for businesses paying 150 percent of the local or statewide average annual wage ($53,700 for Polk County).

 

The state also offers several tax exemptions for qualifying businesses. These include the Manufacturing Machinery and Equipment Sales Tax Exemption, the Machinery and Equipment Used for Research and Development Sales Tax Exemption, the Pollution Control Equipment Sales Tax Exemption, the Electricity Tax Exemption, Boiler Fuels Tax Exemption, and the Repair and Labor Charges Sale Tax Exemption.

 

The Urban Job Tax Credit is an incentive for eligible businesses that locate and create new jobs in a designated urban area. The credit is $500 per qualified job and can be taken against either the Florida Corporate Income Tax or the Florida Sales and Use Tax.

 

In addition, the state’s Economic Development Transportation Fund may be used to help alleviate transportation challenges that may adversely affect a company’s decision to build or expand in Florida. Eligible projects can include access roads, turn lanes and traffic signals. Road Fund monies can be used for project design, engineering and construction costs. The award amount depends on necessary improvements and comes as a grant to the government body responsible for the improvements.

 

Local incentives

 

Polk County Industrial Revenue Bonds (IRBs) and the Polk County Economic Development Ad Valorem Tax Exemption are the key county programs available to businesses that want to set up shop here.

With below-market interest rates, the IRBs provide for tax-free and long-term financing of fixed assets for qualified manufacturers and 501(c)3 non-for-profit enterprises. IRBs are issued by the Polk County Industrial Development Authority — on behalf of private companies — to finance land, building, and equipment. Issued from $1 million to $10 million, IRBs cannot be used for inventory or working capital.

The purpose of the Polk Economic Development Ad Valorem Tax Exemption is to encourage quality job growth in targeted and high-value businesses and to help the county better compete with other regions seeking new business development.

 

In addition to the county business incentives, CareerSource Polk (www.careersourcepolk.com) is available to help companies with their hiring, recruiting and training needs. Career Source Polk is a nonprofit corporation that oversees workforce development resources for the county’s residents and businesses. Services include help with online applications, applicant screening, testing, getting new hires started, and conducting job fairs.

Before anyone gets the idea that the tax and other incentives outlined here are just for new businesses, company owners with the idea to expand also may be eligible. Right here in Lake Wales, Oakley Transport Inc. qualified for several incentives with plans for a $1.5 million expansion project (completed last year) that promised to add 103 jobs.

The fact is, 70 to 80 percent of an area’s new jobs usually come from existing companies. It’s a fact that can’t be ignored when the good news about state and local tax exemptions and other financial incentives are being presented to developing businesses.

For more information and resources about local business growth incentives, go online to lakewaleschamber.com.

LWEDC focuses on business retention, expansion

While the Lake Wales Economic Development Council strives to attract new businesses and industry leaders into the area, another important economic goal is to aid in the expansion of existing businesses.

When Lake Wales businesses grow, the local economy directly experiences the benefits from that expansion. The largest impact is the creation of new jobs that contribute to the health of the local economy.

When businesses expand, they order new equipment and build larger facilities required to increase production. The local economy indirectly benefits from business expansion as average wages increase and people spend more at local restaurants, retailers and shops.

A great example of business expansion in Lake Wales is Kegel, a company that manufacturers bowling lane machines and other bowling related services. Three years ago, Kegel added a machine workshop, which allowed them to in-source most of their manufacturing work to fill orders quickly and more efficiently.

Kegel is now able to manufacture much of their equipment in-house, rather than relying on third-party vendors. The expansion has added 11 jobs Lake Wales market so far. Kegel also generates revenue and passes it into the local economy in the form of payroll and wages.

Citizen’s Bank is another major employer in the Lake Wales area that has expanded considerably. After arriving in Lake Wales in 1998, the company has grown to 12 offices around the county, including two offices in Lake Wales. They also operate a separate bookkeeping facility, along with a processing area in Longleaf Business Park. The bank employs nearly 100 people in Lake Wales, with an annual payroll of almost $4.2 million.

Citizen’s Bank CEO and President Greg Littleton described economic growth and expansion as a mutually beneficial process.

“As businesses come to Lake Wales or existing businesses expand and grow, it gives us all more opportunity,” he said. “Specifically with our bank, as companies do better, their deposits grow and we do better.”

The LWEDC provides assistance to companies looking to expand their operations like Kegel and Citizen’s Bank. The economic development council provides information on available tax exemptions and other similar local, county, state and federal incentive programs.

The LWEDC works closely with other economic partners including The Central Florida Development Council and Enterprise Florida. The Central Florida Development Council markets the area from a county level. Enterprise Florida markets the area at the state level. Both partner agencies are instrumental in helping large firms relocate to the area. The Lake Wales EDC also works closely with Lake Wales city officials and can assist with identifying planning and permitting requirements and, in some cases, streamline or fast track the permitting process.

Kegel Company CEO Jonathan Davis said he appreciates LWEDC’s assistance in identifying workforce development programs, and connecting them with programs offered by Polk State College, Webber International University, Warner University and Ridge Career Center.

If you are planning to open a new business, expand and existing business or relocate your business to the area contact the Lake EDC office at (863) 676-3445 or visit is online at LakeWalesChamber.com.

Real Estate Professionals Play Essential Role Area Economic Development

Brokers and developers are extremely important to the Lake Wales Economic Development Council. The LWEDC couldn’t inspire economic growth in Lake Wales without their dedication, hard work and support.

This is because real estate professionals play a key role in keeping the LWEDC apprised of new developments within the Lake Wales market.

One of the brokers with whom the LWEDC has an excellent relationship is Larry Bossarte, a broker associate at Coldwell Banker Commercial Saunders Ralston Realty and a member of the Lake Wales Chamber of Commerce. Bossarte has been in the real estate industry for over 30 years and works closely with the LWEDC to ensure that the council knows about new listings, freshly completed real estate deals and possible leads.

“Since I work in commercial real estate full-time, [The LWEDC relies] on us to keep our thumb on the pulse and know what trends are and what demand is and what transactions have taken place or are taking place,” Bossarte explains.

This is crucial to the economic development council, because these full-time real estate professionals have cultivated an excellent list of contacts and sources. Brokers can therefore provide the LWEDC with valuable information from inside the local market, Bossarte said.

“It’s equally important that The LWEDC knows what’s going on locally in terms of possible expansions or relocations of [businesses that are] already here, and they’re not going to get those leads from outside sources,” Bossarte said.

For example, Bossarte and his associates connected KEGEL to the LWEDC and the Chamber while the bowling business was planning to expand. Because of that connection, the LWEDC was able to research incentive programs to aid in the expansion.

In the same vein, developers also have the ability to provide incentives to new business prospects, said prominent Lake Wales developer Joe Miranda of Joseph F. Miranda, Inc. A good relationship with developers is crucial because the developers can help advance the negotiation process by offering incentives.

Joseph F. Miranda, Inc. is the private developer of the Longleaf Business Park, among other business and commercial properties in the area. With the park, in particular, Joseph F. Miranda, Inc. and the city have been working together closely for the last 17 or so years. Miranda was responsible for building out the infrastructure to make Longleaf Business park a shovel-ready opportunity for new tenants looking to expand or relocate.

“We certainly have a great relationship,” Joe said. “The city of Lake Wales has done a tremendous amount of work getting to where they are now.”

Developers also have the ability to help Lake Wales attract specific, targeted industries to the city. These include medical and health establishments, hotels and schools—all of which improve the Lake Wales standard of living and increase its draw to outside residents and businesses.

In 2005, the Lake Wales Medical Center approached Joseph F. Miranda, Inc. because the health center needed additional office space in order to draw more doctors to the area. Miranda agreed and developed a 2-story, 20,000 square-foot office building , which is now called the JFM Medical Center and includes a Wound Healing Center in addition to the doctors’ offices.

“It was a good arrangement for both of us,” Joe said.

These examples highlight why the LWEDC’s relationship with local brokers and developers is so key. With the help and expertise of real estate professionals, the LWEDC can effectively continue its goal to promote economic development in Lake Wales.

Why is economic development important to the local community?

The Lake Wales Economic Development Council works hard to be the catalyst for economic growth in our area. But why is that important to the community at large?

 

It’s actually pretty simple: A healthy economy means a healthy community. Here’s what we mean.

 

Every part of the Lake Wales economy is interconnected. A strong economy provides a draw for potential businesses looking to move into the area, which in turn provides a wider variety of jobs for the residents of Lake Wales. And when our residents are employed and can comfortably afford their standard of living, they have more expendable income to invest into businesses and shops in the area. Accordingly, when we have a community that participates fully in the economy, we find more businesses interested in moving into the area, which leads to industry diversification and more job availability.

 

So a solid and healthy economy is like food and oxygen for the community—it both stimulates and supports rapid growth.

 

But it’s more than that. Residents want to live in a place with opportunity, yes, but they also want to live in a place that suits their needs and interests. By focusing on targeted industries including agribusiness, tourism, logistics and distribution, light manufacturing, healthcare, and retail, we believe we’ve helped create a friendly and community-oriented place to live. A place where innovation and entrepreneurship thrive, and where people can live their dreams while enjoying quality health care, education, shopping, dining and more. And we couldn’t have hoped to do that without the businesses that settled in Lake Wales and became an established part of the community.

 

We also have the opportunity of being a small, welcoming city located between the two major metropolitan areas – Tampa and Orlando. That means we have the added appeal of providing access to big-city living without the daily traffic and issues inherent with larger cities. The Lake Wales Economic Development Council’s goal is to help businesses open, expand or relocate to the area.  There are a number commercial office spaces located throughout the area that offer an ideal location for professional, medical and retail businesses including the downtown commercial district and SR 60 and Hwy 27 corridors.

 

With the opening of the new CSX intermodal facility, the Longleaf Business Park offers a prime location for new business opportunities and expansion. The Longleaf Business Park, located two miles south of Lake Wales on Highway 27, is home to Kegel Company, a state-of-the-art bowling training center and manufacturer of bowling equipment. Nearly $3 million in roads, utilities and infrastructure have been invested to provide shovel-ready opportunities for commercial and industrial businesses looking to expand or relocate in the Longleaf Business Park.

 

The Lake Wales Economic Development Council also works closely with site selectors who represent the interests of businesses looking to relocate to the area.  The role often involves serving as advocates, risk managers, liaisons and ambassadors to help businesses navigate government channels, identify resources, and learn about valuable government incentive programs. The organization is supported by funding from the city of Lake Wales and area economic partners.

 

The Lake Wales Economic Development Council is committed to continually strengthening and improving the local economy so that businesses and residents alike can realize the benefits of a strong local economy in the form of more jobs,higher wages and expanded government services.

LWEDC focuses on business retention, expansion

While the Lake Wales Economic Development Council strives to attract new businesses and industry leaders into the area, another important economic goal is to aid in the expansion of existing businesses.

When Lake Wales businesses grow, the local economy directly experiences the benefits from that expansion. The largest impact is the creation of new jobs that contribute to the health of the local economy.

When businesses expand, they order new equipment and build larger facilities required to increase production. The local economy indirectly benefits from business expansion as average wages increase and people spend more at local restaurants, retailers and shops.

A great example of business expansion in Lake Wales is Kegel, a company that manufacturers bowling lane machines and other bowling related services. Three years ago, Kegel added a machine workshop, which allowed them to in-source most of their manufacturing work to fill orders quickly and more efficiently.

Kegel is now able to manufacture much of their equipment in-house, rather than relying on third-party vendors. The expansion has added 11 jobs Lake Wales market so far. Kegel also generates revenue and passes it into the local economy in the form of payroll and wages.

Citizen’s Bank is another major employer in the Lake Wales area that has expanded considerably. After arriving in Lake Wales in 1998, the company has grown to 12 offices around the county, including two offices in Lake Wales. They also operate a separate bookkeeping facility, along with a processing area in Longleaf Business Park. The bank employs nearly 100 people in Lake Wales, with an annual payroll of almost $4.2 million.

Citizen’s Bank CEO and President Greg Littleton described economic growth and expansion as a mutually beneficial process.

“As businesses come to Lake Wales or existing businesses expand and grow, it gives us all more opportunity,” he said. “Specifically with our bank, as companies do better, their deposits grow and we do better.”

The LWEDC provides assistance to companies looking to expand their operations like Kegel and Citizen’s Bank. The economic development council provides information on available tax exemptions and other similar local, county, state and federal incentive programs.

The LWEDC works closely with other economic partners including The Central Florida Development Council and Enterprise Florida. The Central Florida Development Council markets the area from a county level. Enterprise Florida markets the area at the state level. Both partner agencies are instrumental in helping large firms relocate to the area. The Lake Wales EDC also works closely with Lake Wales city officials and can assist with identifying planning and permitting requirements and, in some cases, streamline or fast track the permitting process.

Kegel Company CEO Jonathan Davis said he appreciates LWEDC’s assistance in identifying workforce development programs, and connecting them with programs offered by Polk State College, Webber International University, Warner University and Ridge Career Center.

If you are planning to open a new business, expand and existing business or relocate your business to the area contact the Lake EDC office at (863) 676-3445 or visit is online at LakeWalesChamber.com.

Why is economic development important to the local community?

The Lake Wales Economic Development Council works hard to be the catalyst for economic growth in our area. But why is that important to the community at large?

 

It’s actually pretty simple: A healthy economy means a healthy community. Here’s what we mean.

 

Every part of the Lake Wales economy is interconnected. A strong economy provides a draw for potential businesses looking to move into the area, which in turn provides a wider variety of jobs for the residents of Lake Wales. And when our residents are employed and can comfortably afford their standard of living, they have more expendable income to invest into businesses and shops in the area. Accordingly, when we have a community that participates fully in the economy, we find more businesses interested in moving into the area, which leads to industry diversification and more job availability.

 

So a solid and healthy economy is like food and oxygen for the community—it both stimulates and supports rapid growth.

 

But it’s more than that. Residents want to live in a place with opportunity, yes, but they also want to live in a place that suits their needs and interests. By focusing on targeted industries including agribusiness, tourism, logistics and distribution, light manufacturing, healthcare, and retail, we believe we’ve helped create a friendly and community-oriented place to live. A place where innovation and entrepreneurship thrive, and where people can live their dreams while enjoying quality health care, education, shopping, dining and more. And we couldn’t have hoped to do that without the businesses that settled in Lake Wales and became an established part of the community.

 

We also have the opportunity of being a small, welcoming city located between the two major metropolitan areas – Tampa and Orlando. That means we have the added appeal of providing access to big-city living without the daily traffic and issues inherent with larger cities. The Lake Wales Economic Development Council’s goal is to help businesses open, expand or relocate to the area.  There are a number commercial office spaces located throughout the area that offer an ideal location for professional, medical and retail businesses including the downtown commercial district and SR 60 and Hwy 27 corridors.

 

With the opening of the new CSX intermodal facility, the Longleaf Business Park offers a prime location for new business opportunities and expansion. The Longleaf Business Park, located two miles south of Lake Wales on Highway 27, is home to Kegel Company, a state-of-the-art bowling training center and manufacturer of bowling equipment. Nearly $3 million in roads, utilities and infrastructure have been invested to provide shovel-ready opportunities for commercial and industrial businesses looking to expand or relocate in the Longleaf Business Park.

 

The Lake Wales Economic Development Council also works closely with site selectors who represent the interests of businesses looking to relocate to the area.  The role often involves serving as advocates, risk managers, liaisons and ambassadors to help businesses navigate government channels, identify resources, and learn about valuable government incentive programs. The organization is supported by funding from the city of Lake Wales and area economic partners.

 

The Lake Wales Economic Development Council is committed to continually strengthening and improving the local economy so that businesses and residents alike can realize the benefits of a strong local economy in the form of more jobs,higher wages and expanded government services.