Economy and Industry of Lakeland, FL
Lakeland’s industrial and economic history is largely based off of citrus, cattle, and phosphate mining. Citrus in Lakeland dates all the way back to the 1850s when settlers planted citrus trees here, and Polk County later becomes the main citrus growing area in Florida. To this day, citrus still plays an important role in the Lakeland economy. One of Lakeland’s largest Citrus companies is JBT FoodTech, who has a citrus processing plant right off of Main St. The cattle industry is still crucial in Lakeland, but is shrinking as more farmland is being developed due to Lakeland’s growing population and demands. The last phosphate mine in Polk County actually closed several years ago in 2014. For years, Lakeland pumped out tons of phosphate, mainly used for agricultural fertilizer, and was part of the “Bone Valley” which is the area through Central Florida that supplied 25% of the phosphate for the United States.
The largest grocer in southeast America, known as Publix, was founded right outside of Lakeland in the town of Winter Haven. Publix now has over 1,000 stores and many stores and warehouses in Lakeland. Publix is now Lakeland’s largest employer with over 6,500 employees in the area.
Top Employers in Lakeland:
Publix (groceries) employs 8,200 people, Lakeland Regional Health (healthcare) employs 5,500 people, GEICO (insurance) employs 2,800 people.
Lakeland is home to many manufacturing plants that provide many jobs in the area. Manufacturing in Lakeland ranges from bakery products to airbags to wooden pallets. Some of the biggest plants belong to Publix, Pepperidge Farm, MAX PAK, and Keymark.
Due to Lakeland being the largest city and such a convenient transportation center in between Orlando and Tampa, distribution is the fastest growing industry in Lakeland, bringing more jobs and growing the economy. The following companies are some of the many distribution centers that are 50,000 square feet and greater for the Lakeland area: Publix, Saddle Creek Logistics, Rooms To Go, Amazon, Havertys, MBM, Coca-Cola, Purina Feeds, Southeast Paper.