Sumter County is poised to make a major impact in industry and agribusiness in the years to come. While industrial and agricultural businesses may seem like opposite ends of the spectrum, there are opportunities for both in Sumter, said Frank Calascione, director of economic development for Sumter County.
At the first gathering of Sumter County Chamber of Commerce members on Feb. 16, Calascione gave a presentation showing how his department recruits industrial and agricultural companies to move to Sumter. His team is emphasizing the availability of land that meets the needs of these businesses through a new program they call Site Ready Sumter. “The idea is that it tells the site selector that this site is fully ready to go. It has the required utilities – water, sewer, gas, electric and fiber – and all the rights that are so important. We want to make sure everything is locked down to help us stand out in the market.
Calascione said his team was engaged in five confidential recruitment projects with industrial and manufacturing companies planning to open sites in Sumter.
Some of the Site Ready Sumter locations include Gov Industrial Park. Rick Scott near Coleman and Pike 75 Logistics Center and Shamrock Industrial Park in Wildwood. These properties offer nearly 700 acres of available industrial land.
Governor Rick Scott’s industrial park has already been a huge success, Calascione noted.
DZ Corporation including DZ Precast Solutions, DZ Concrete, DZ Block and Five Star Construction has invested heavily in the industrial park.
“We are very happy to be here,” said Rick Rhodes, CEO of DZ Corporation. “Ultimately, we will create hundreds of jobs in this industrial park. We are very proud to be part of it.
The company has created nearly 200 jobs at the industrial park this year, Rhodes said, and is always looking to fill more positions.
Other businesses in Governor Rick Scott’s industrial park include MiCo Customs, The Villages Commercial Design Division, and The Villages Daily Sun printing company.
CW Roberts Contracting plans to begin work on an asphalt plant this year, Calascione said.
The county is currently working to establish utility capabilities to designate the future Rep Industrial Park. Marlene O’Toole as a Site Ready Sumter property, he said.
“We’re actively marketing the Rep. O’Toole park now,” Calascione said. “He’ll have all the utilities and rights, so he’s there on the radar for many of these projects.”
The industrial park Rep. O’Toole is expected to have approximately 7 million square feet of light industrial space east of US 301 across from the Gov Industrial Park. Scott.
“This is the right project in the right area at the right time,” said Sumter County Commissioner Doug Gilpin, who represents District 2, which includes Coleman. “If you look at the success that Governor Rick Scott’s industrial park has had in such a short time, it shows the demand and desire of businesses to grow in Sumter County. Having more industrial space just across the road will allow us to attract a different type of clientele, so we will have a more diverse approach.
Planned improvements to County Road 525E will spur even more industrial opportunities in the area, Calascione said. The county is finalizing a $6 million grant from the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity to expand the highway to four lanes.
“It’s really the connecting point for a lot of development,” Calascione said. “The other piece of the puzzle is that we have the Monarch Ranch industrial site which represents approximately 2,000 acres of future industrial use. We envision this to be a major industrial corridor in the county. This project therefore prepares the ground for the next 20 years of industrial development.
Another infrastructure project to widen CR 229 from National Road 44 to CR 462 in the Wildwood area is expected to be a boon for agribusiness, Calascione said.
“We see this as a potential agricultural corridor,” he said. “We are seeing great interest in traditional farming as well as automated greenhouses.”
Negotiations are underway with two agribusinesses exploring Sumter and another looking to expand its current operations, Calascione said.
“We have two active recruiting projects in the sitemap phase, which means they’re getting closer,” he said.
The success of The Villages Grown has raised the profile of agribusiness in the county, Calascione said.
Over the past few months, The Villages Grown has developed numerous partnerships to expand access to produce grown in its controlled-environment agricultural greenhouses along a 45-acre farm at the southwest corner of State Highway 44. and Morse Boulevard, as well as local agricultural partners within a 100-mile radius of the Villages. “We did a tour not long ago at The Villages Grown and they’re basically in constant expansion mode,” he said. “It was wonderful to see all they do.”
Specialty Editor Keith Pearlman can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5347, or [email protected]