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Plant City Observer Thursday, Apr. 5, 2018 8 months ago

Owner’s Report: A local economic feel-good story

Saputo Industries has made a positive impact on Plant City’s economy.
by: Columnist Columnist

As the longest recession since the 1930’s Depression fades in our collective rear view mirrors, our local Plant City economy and Saputo Industries have given us another perfect feel-good story to reassure us that the eight-year recession is truly gone.

Plant Manager Jim Byam unveiled Saputo’s feel-good story at the recent monthly meeting of the Plant City Economic Development Corporation. In the midst of an agenda packed with presentations by several new business organizations that have bought in to Plant City’s economic resurgence and with the announcement of four well-known new investors in the PCEDC, Byam told the Saputo story.

Two branches of the same company had been operating in Plant City in the same facility. The milk co-op, Sunshine State Dairy Farms, processed and sold fresh milk to supply local retailers. Southeast Milk also processed milk, but they produced milk products with an extended shelf life and sold them to grocery stores and the fast food industry.

In 2017, Saputo bought Southeast Milk and closed Sunshine State Dairy Farms. When it closed, 52 jobs disappeared. But that wasn’t the end of the Saputo story, and now instead of eliminating jobs, Saputo will be expanding the job market.

Saputo is expanding its local operation and updating its entire facility as it expands the extended shelf life products into the now-vacant former Sunshine State space. Saputo remodeled the entire building and the space grew from a 1,200-pallet capacity to a 6,000-pallet capacity.

After leading off with the Saputo story, PCEDC Executive Director Jake Austin followed up with introductions of the Hollenkamp brothers, Steve and Jay, who have decided to bring their business development firm home. Austin then introduced the four newest investors in the PCEDC: Felton’s Market, All-Florida Mechanical Services, A Stepping Stone and the Bank of Tampa. The wrap-up agenda item, a panel of four new Plant City technology firms, followed.

Plant City expects further economic success as the PCEDC, with its 58 members, begins work in May on its second three-year operating plan.

Felix Haynes is a co-owner of the Plant City Times & Observer.

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