Last week, Plant City business leaders, city employees and other members of the community gathered for “Plant City. Right. Now.,” an economic development forum that will ideally become an annual event.
“Today, we are here to show you how Plant City is poised for economic development,” Mayor Rick Lott said at the start of the seminar. “We are ready for new businesses to find their home in our community. We are prepared to help existing businesses grow their market share.”
The event, held Wednesday, May 6, was a joint partnership among the City of Plant City, the Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce and the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation.
Perhaps the most interesting highlights were updates from four developers on major developments coming to Plant City: Lakeside Station Logistics Park, commercial property along County Line Road, Varrea, and North Park Isles.
Bob Appleyard, from Transcend Development, discussed the Lakeside Station Logistics Park, which is right off of Interstate 4 and has the potential to create jobs in a number of fields. In addition to light manufacturing and distribution, the space could eventually be used for agricultural research, a retirement community or even a healthcare facility.
“Literally, this project — the prospects, the possibilities are endless,” Appleyard said.
The next presentation highlighted the features of Central Florida Development’s commercial property along County Line Road. A spec building will be completed at the site in July, and one customer with a lease for 15,000 square feet will be moving in right away. A second spec building will be completed later.
“I can’t say enough about our experience working with the City of Plant City,” Jeff Lucas, of Central Florida Development, said. “Everybody on the team there has been very responsive … to, frankly, make this development successful and bring more jobs and capital investment into the area.”
City Manager Mike Herr has made it a goal to expand businesses already in Plant City and bring new industries to the town, creating new jobs for the citizens and newcomers. There are two residential developments in the works that would provide additional housing for the expected growth.
Just over a year ago, Walton Development Group bought a property in the northeast quarter of the city that is intended to become a Traditional Neighborhood Development, similar to Celebration or Fishhawk Ranch. The TND was originally called Cone Ranch, but it is now known as Varrea.
“We literally walked the site with our consultants, to go through the property and identify all of the natural beauties … and we came up with a design,” Bob Sebesta, general manager of WDG, said.
Varrea is expected to have 2,640 residential units, along with some retail locations and shared amenities.
The other residential development is North Park Isles, a 400-acre community of 947 residential units to be built at Park Road and Sam Allen Road.
“The timing is right for Plant City,” Todd Taylor, a spokesman for North Park Isles, said. “We’re very excited to get it going. The number of builders we have interested … is off the charts.”
The program concluded with a presentation on Midtown by Herr. He showed visual representations of what the streets and storefronts could look like in the future.
Herr also spoke about the appeal of the Historic Downtown District and how it will contribute to Midtown’s success.
“We’re very proud of the many assets that we have in our downtown business district today,” Herr said. “We have a lot of amenities to support Midtown.”
Leaders of local utilities companies, agribusinesses and manufacturing facilities also gave presentations about how their niche contributes to Plant City’s overall economic success. Martyn Clay, president of Hillsborough Community College in Plant City, spoke about how HCC prepares Plant City students for careers in a number of technical and professional fields.
There was also a panel discussion, during which attendees had the opportunity to ask agricultural experts about the impact of agriculture in Plant City and the current state of the industry.
All presentations from the forum are available at PlantCityRightNow.com. News, videos and other media will periodically be posted to the site throughout the year, until the next forum.
In addition to Mayor Rick Lott and City Manager Mike Herr, speakers at “Plant City. Right. Now.” were:
Bob Appleyard, Transcend Development (Lakeside Station Logistics Park)
Robert Beltran, Southwest Florida Water Management District
Martyn Clay, Hillsborough Community College
John Dicks, former mayor and blueberry farmer
Gordon Gillette, Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas
Ryan Keel, Keel & Curley Winery
Jeff Lucas, Central Florida Development
Steve Maxwell, Highland Packaging Solutions
Scott Monahan, James Hardie Building Products
Adam Myers, Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation
Kenneth Parker, Florida Strawberry Growers Association
Roy Peterson, Toufayan Bakery
Bob Sebesta, Walton Development Group (Varrea)
Todd Taylor, North Park Isles
Gary Wishnatzki, Wish Farms
Contact Catherine Sinclair at firstname.lastname@example.org.