Highlands County and Sebring Regional Airport are home to the South Central Florida Catalyst Project. This premier $25 million economic development project is intended to bring new industries and jobs to the Highlands County region. A list of target industries developed by leaders of the region provides guidance in marketing efforts for the project.
Recently, the partnership of Opportunity Florida and the regional economic development organization, Florida’s Heartland REDI won a $26 million grant to provide broadband to the region’s schools, libraries, government and healthcare entities. The initiative will enhance high-speed data transfer throughout the region, and is expected to bring new technology businesses to the area.
A partnership with University of South Florida, South Florida State College, Highlands County EDC, and Florida’s Heartland REDI has created the Small Business Development Center of the Heartland to provide business counseling and training to Highlands, Hardee and DeSoto counties. Housed at South Florida State College, the center has a full-time business analyst on staff, with most training and counseling provided free of charge.
In cooperation with Sebring Regional Airport and the Avon Park CRA, the EDC is developing two business incubator locations. Incubator tenants are required to provide business plans and participate in discussions about their businesses. If accepted into the program, participants will learn how to run a successful business through classroom training, mentoring and peer group networking.
Key Location Assets
• Considerable cost savings for labor-intensive business and industries.
• Accommodating tax structure
• Low cost of living, particularly for land and housing
• Employer satisfaction with employee work ethic
• Strong agricultural work ethic
• Ample, trainable, productive workforce
• Proximity to other Florida markets
• Several major metro areas are within 150 miles
• Local Enterprise Zone and Foreign Trade Zone
• Strong public/private cooperation for business attraction
• Wealth of civic pride
A current inventory of available buildings and land is maintained by the EDC on its website. Local developers will build to suit with attractive lease or purchase offers.
Within the municipalities of Avon Park, Lake Placid and Sebring, land is regulated by the respective governing bodies, guided by appointed advisory planning and zoning agencies.
Land use in the unincorporated areas of Highlands County is regulated by the Board of County Commissioners. The Planning and Zoning Board, with offices located at the county government center complex, is an advisory board with members appointed by county commissioners. Of the 701,709 acres in Highlands County, more than 3,500 acres are zoned for industrial development.
With a land area of 2,000 acres, Sebring Regional Airport is a prime location for manufacturing and distribution within its commerce park areas. This is a full-service park with available rail service, operated by the Sebring Airport Authority. The entire 2,000 acres is designated as Foreign Trade Zone #215, and is located in the Highlands County Enterprise Zone.
Other industrial parks are located throughout the county, with most industrial properties located within the Highlands County Enterprise Zone.