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Plant City economic development group off to a fast start

Plant City economic development group off to a fast start

PLANT CITY – The city has a bright future, thanks in no small part to a new organization to promote Plant City’s economic development, the group’s leader said.

“You stepped up in a big way,” Jake Austin said at the first board meeting of the Plant City Economic Development Corp.

Nearly 40 business owners, corporate executives and others who contributed to the not-for-profit were praised for both their support and their vision by Austin, who is the president and chief executive officer.

The meeting was held at Highland Packaging Solutions, where CEO Steve Maxwell predicted the organization will make a big impact in Plant City’s economic growth.

“I believe history will record this as a very monumental time in the history of Plant City,” he said.

Austin, with the group’s support, will court businesses to relocate or expand in Plant City.

City Manager Mike Herr said the city is trying to do its part to spark economic development, such as by expanding utility lines along County Line Road, where up to 7.4 million square feet of commercial and industrial space can be built on 678 acres.

The city tries to be business friendly, he said. When a developer applies for permission for a project, city leaders arrange a face to face meeting, he said.

“We want to be the easiest place to do business,” Herr said.

The owners or CEOs of several companies that have or will soon expand or relocate to Plant City were introduced at the meeting.

They included:

• David D. Henderson of Henderson Properties, LLC, who talked about a Hampton Inn that he plans to build at Interstate 4 and Thonotosassa Road

• South Florida Baptist Hospital President CEO Karen Kerr, which is building a $6.1 million new critical care unit

• Central Florida Development representative Jeff Lucas, whose company opened a 100,000 square foot building that is nearly full rented, with another 100,000 square foot building to open in February at U.S. 92 and County Line Road. The company also has plans for up to 1 million square feet at County Line and Rice roads

• Andrew Samuel, CEO of Plant City-based Sunshine Bank, which has expanded from 5 to 12 offices and doubled its assets in less than a year as it seeks to grow to become a regional bank

• Steve Maxwell, who said his Highland Packaging company, which produces packaging and labels, has been growing by offering more and more products and services

• Florida Agency Network CEO Aaron Davis appeared by video to announce his plans to spend $5.1 million expanding in Plant City to accommodate growth at his firm, which is the state’s largest independent title company.

The Plant City Economic Development board will meet nine times a year. The next meeting will be at 4 p.m. Jan. 11 at Stingray Chevrolet.

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