An expansion of the Peace River Citrus Products Inc. juice processing plant in Bartow will bring 175 new high paying jobs to Polk County when it opens in early 2021.
According to Rob Clancey, president of the Bartow Economic Development Council, shortly after the company announced the expansion: “We've had many smaller home runs, but this is a grand slam. Every time you bring in manufacturing, it has a great return on investment. That's important.”
Clancy worked with city officials, the Central Florida Development Council and Peace River officials to make the project a reality, he said. It's one of the largest development projects to come to the city in years. “It's a big manufacturing project regardless of the location,” said Sean Malott, president and CEO of the CFDC. “It's a major investment in Polk County and in Bartow for sure.”
It also represents a major investment in the Florida citrus industry that has been shrinking under the siege of greening, a fatal bacterial disease that has reduced Florida's annual citrus harvest by more than 70% since its discovery in 2005.
“It (citrus) is our only business,” said Andy Taylor, Peace River's chief financial officer, from the company's Vero Beach headquarters. “We're not distracted by other business.”
Peace River will break ground on the new 320,000-square-foot facility in April and hopes to begin operating in January 2021, Taylor said. It will be a packaging and blending operation for juice products.