Purchase of Former International Paper Plant Provides Great Start to 2018

In the economic arena, the arena that moves and motivates us here at the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council, the new year is off to a fantastic start! Nationally, regionally, and locally, the news now is very positive, and most signs have us expecting more great things ahead.

Right here in greater Lake Wales, there’s been a terrific development, and the Chamber-EDC has this grand opportunity to help share the news about it. The long-vacant former International Paper box-making facility, the massive complex just west of the city on State Road 60, has a new owner with a new manufacturing mission for the area and up to 100 jobs to offer!

The sale of the plant to The Fence Outlet, a Florida-based manufacturing and retail company, was finalized in December. Coldwell Banker Commercial Saunders Ralston Dantzler Realty of Lakeland managed the listing and sale. The team at the Lake Wales Chamber-EDC is pleased that it had an advisory role throughout the process, providing listing agent Greg Smith and his team with relevant information that helped to seal the deal.

With seven retail locations throughout Central Florida, The Fence Outlet —fenceoutletonline.com — offers fencing materials and supplies and manufactures much of what it sells retail. “Made in America” is important to the company, which bills itself as being “Central Florida’s fencing expert.”

With its new Lake Wales property, The Fence Outlet has a 273,384-square-foot manufacturing and distribution facility, sitting on 50 acres, to support its retail centers. It has jobs to offer, too. The company has already scheduled a Fence Outlet MDC Job Fair for Thursday, Feb. 1, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Lake Wales site at 4025 State Road 60 W. Initially, the company is looking to fill positions for facility technician, material handler, maintenance technician, packer, and operator trainee. Job candidates are being asked to complete an online application at fenceoutletonline.com/careers or e-mail an application to hr@fenceoutletonline.com. Questions can be directed to Coley Diaz at 863-455-6312.

The sale of the former International Paper plant to The Fence Outlet is great economic news for Lake Wales on its own merits — particularly as it applies to new job opportunities for local residents — but the ripple effect could be even greater. In economic development, new manufacturing businesses and revitalized manufacturing facilities are prized because they have the highest “multiplier effect” — the ancillary economic benefits they almost always produce. These would include:

• The introduction of new outside dollars for spending here.
• Plant revitalization and retooling and the local contractor and construction services they require.
• A spending boost for locally available raw materials and supplies the plant might require.
• A rise in payroll dollars for spending locally on housing, dining, services, and essential and discretionary consumer goods.
• The potential movement of new supply and service businesses into the area to support the larger manufacturing operation.
• Potential new housing construction for company executives, managers, and employees.

Many people have worked tirelessly for almost five years to make the sale of the International Paper plant possible. The purchase by The Fence Outlet can’t be understated. It’s huge — for all the reasons described and more — and, to The Fence Outlet ownership and management, we at the Chamber-EDC offer a big and hearty “Welcome to Lake Wales!”

An exciting report at the 2018 Economic Forum Breakfast

The delicious meal went down well Jan. 19 during the Lake Wales Chamber-EDC’s 2018 Economic Forum Breakfast in the Lake Ashton community. That’s because the report from guest speaker Andrew Adams was very positive from start to finish.

Andrew is a senior research associate and market strategist with Raymond James Financial. The focus of his remarks were on the state and national levels, but the message — that the USA and Florida are doing very well economically — certainly bodes well for businesses and consumers in Central Florida, Polk County, and greater Lake Wales.

Andrew said that he and others on his research team see no end to the economic gains, with growth continuing well for the next year or two. Corporate profits are up, driving both job growth and reinvestment. Consumer spending is up, too, Andrew said, reminding his breakfast audience that consumer spending makes up 70 percent of the U.S. economy.

Andrew said the current U.S. economic growth trend — a continual and steady glide path upward — actually is better for economic recovery that the quick-bounce recoveries that typically follow recessions.

Andrew said U.S. economy has been outperforming the world for quite some time but that the rest of the world is catching up in many ways, particularly in the area of technology. That alone will create more growth opportunities for U.S.-based companies in the emerging markets.

More positive news on the local front

Back to the area where we live and work, the signs of robust economic activity can be found all over Lake Wales, particularly in the area I wrote about last month — the U.S. Highway 27 retail and hotel corridor on the city’s north side. In addition to that, though, there are more positives to report:

• Work on the key runway extension project at Lake Wales Municipal Airport is expected to begin soon. When the work is completed, flight activity into and out of the airport will increase, and the industrial area at and around the airport will come into greater focus for potential new companies.