Polk County: Florida’s Crossroads of Opportunity


(Written by Guest Blogger: Margarita Alfaro, Senior Research & Marketing Manager, Central Florida Development Council)

Earlier this month, Polk County adopted its first logo, depicting the county as being at a crossroads, signifying its key location within Florida.  The tagline – Florida’s Crossroads of Opportunity.

The logo is just one of the many strides taken by Polk County to raise brand awareness and recognition of the area and ultimately take economic growth and development to the next level.

Economic development in Polk County has seen a lot of positive change in the past few years.  Most recently, the announcements of Amazon and O’Reilly Auto Parts opening distribution facilities in Polk County has made the business world stand up and take notice.  Amazon will add 385 jobs to the county, while O’Reilly Auto Parts hired 160 people for its new distribution center and will grow to about 400 total jobs in the coming years.  Governor Rick Scott even made a visit to support job growth in Polk County by attending the Grand Opening of O’Reilly Auto Parts in January.

When asked about the momentum in economic development in Polk County, Greg Ruthven, Chairman of the Central Florida Development Council (CFDC) had this to say:  “I’m very excited about what’s emerging in Polk County.  We have new leadership in the CFDC under David Petr, the continued support of our Board of County Commissioners, and a refreshed synergy with our economic development partners throughout the county who are working together to bring about these big wins for our area.  We not only want to keep the momentum going in the county for these large distribution facilities, but also capitalize on the other strong industry sectors in the county that companies may not be aware of – Life Sciences & Medical Services, Agribusiness & Agritechnology, Research/Engineering/High-Tech and Logistics/Supply Chain Management”.

Attracting businesses in the target industry sectors mentioned is where organizations like the Central Florida Development Council come into play.  As a public-private partnership under private sector leadership, the CFDC has the support of the County government in stimulating economic growth and can do so by giving industry leaders an opportunity to become key stakeholders in the future of the county and ultimately the future success of their business.

“That stakeholder level of involvement is what first attracted me to the organization” said Greg Ruthven of The Ruthvens.  “To make real economic strides in the county is why I chose to actively engage in the CFDC and ultimately sit as Chairman this year for the organization.  We have ambitious goals for the CFDC.  We will launch a website later this year that will tell the Polk County story through creative visuals, videos, and original content.  It will include a land/building database and be fully integrated with Enterprise Florida’s website.  We also want to grow the private-investor base and get more businesses involved in economic development.  To that end, we are planning an exploratory site visit to the CSX Intermodal site in Fairburn, GA in late Spring of 2014.  On this trip, interested board members, community partners and local EDCs will travel to discover business opportunities and approaches to implement in Polk County’s CSX Intermodal set to open later this year.”

David Petr, President of the CFDC stated, “It’s an exciting time to be in economic development in Polk County.  We’re in a great place geographically for business, and we’re gaining the right attention and momentum from the type of businesses we want in the area.  2014 is just the beginning”.