Grow it, build it, ship it: Get to know Lakeland’s diverse economy

Explore the leading economic drivers in Lakeland, from exciting, new technology to top leaders in growing and distributing delicious eats.

An old fashioned airplane in bright blue sits outside the airport.

Lakeland Linder Airport

Photo via @wacokitchenfl

Table of Contents

Here in Lakeland we can build it, grow it, get it to the store, and then run that store better than anywhere else.

That’s right. This city has some incredible employers — check out this list of top Lakeland employers for more about the individual companies — and is also a hub of tech, grocery, distribution, manufacturing and other great industries.

The city’s lower cost of living paired with its vibrant entrepreneurial spirit, our city also provides an incredibly diverse culture for workers who travel from all over the world to build their career here.

We’ve compiled a list of top 10 industries that are driving Lakeland’s economic growth.


Thanks to Lakeland Linder International Airport, the city has experienced quite the buzz as more than 60 enterprises utilize Lakeland as their flight zone. From the NOAA Hurricane Hunters to Amazon Air, these businesses have partnered with our airport to facilitate their company’s travel needs. Lakeland has also seen a resurgence of aviation training for future pilots, including partnerships with Southeastern University and Polk State College for these programs.

Don’t forget––Lakeland also hosts the annual SUN’n FUN Fly In, one of the largest air shows in the world.


In Lakeland/Polk County, we have over 2,205 employees in the Information Technology industry. According to the Central Florida Development Council, it’s a field that has one of the highest demands and continues to generate economic value as more IT/tech-related companies make the Lakeland their home, such as network support company Boring Business Systems, and security company Data Integrity Services. In 2020, information technology produced $200 million in GDP for Polk County, according to the Central Florida Development Council.


According to the Central Florida Development Council, the cattle industry is responsible for about $1.2 billion in Polk County, employing more than 5,850 people, according to the UF/IFAS March 2019 report. Driving around Lakeland, it won’t take you long to find green pastures filled with livestock. With the recent challenges facing the citrus industry, many agriculturalists are finding opportunities in the industry to utilize the land for raising cattle. Some of the top rated businesses in Polk County include Cattlemen’s Livestock Auction and Raney Cattle Sales.


It’s no secret that we love oranges in Florida, but did you know that for years, our state has been one of the leaders in citrus production? Despite the challenges we’ve faced in the last decade through unforeseen weather and crop diseases, Lakeland ranked first in the U.S. for citrus production by the Florida Department of Agriculture. The resilience of citrus agriculturalists has brought in over $6.7 billion annually in Florida — and the delicious industry employs more than 33,000 people in the state.


Swan City and Polk County have been referred to as the distribution heart of the state due to the accessibility via I-4, State Road 60, and US Highway 27. Distribution also does well here due to the local ports, railways, and airports. Big names that specialize in distribution include Amazon, Publix, and Ruthvens. The distribution industry really drives the economy forward — one 18-wheeler at a time.

Manufacturing + Warehouse

Big names such as Publix and Pepperidge Farm make Lakeland a manufacturing boomtown. In fact, Lakeland is adding over 1 million square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space yearly, equating to roughly 30 million square feet overall.

In 2020, Amazon signed a lease for a 700,000 square-foot space in Lakeland, and in Auburndale, the tech company created around 500 new jobs at its upcoming 1 million-square-foot facility. Along with Amazon, IKEA, Pepsi, Walmart have also opened up warehouses in Polk over the past couple of years.


When it comes to healthcare, Lakeland continues to be one of the leading innovators in device packaging and sterilization. Companies, such as MESM and Stryker, are based in the Lakeland, which is driving job generation and growth opportunities for the city.

Lakeland is also home to award-winning hospitals and medical facilities that regularly attract new physicians to the area. Big names including Lakeland Regional Health, Watson Clinic, and the new iteration of Orlando Health are just some of the residing organizations. Additionally, new healthcare innovations are constantly on the horizon, thanks to the excellent higher education institutions here. For instance, Florida Polytechnic University students used 3D printers to construct shields for healthcare workers in 2020.

Hemp + cannabis

Since the legalization of medical marijuana, Lakeland/Polk County have become a breeding ground for the medical marijuana industry. Two facilities that operate in Polk County in particular are making big waves. Directly after Florida legislators updated the law, Curaleaf in North Lakeland changed their packaging and sold the first form of smokable medical marijuana in the county.

In 2019, Sunshine Growers sold its 32-acre nursery (near the Carillon Lakes neighborhood) to Surterra Wellness for $3.3 million – making it Lakeland’s first state-licensed facility for growing medical marijuana.

Phosphate Mining

Originally started in 1883 in Florida, phosphate mining continues to generate revenue for the Sunshine State, and Polk County is one of the key areas where this takes place. According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the area makes up approximately 1.3 million acres of land known as the ‘Bone Valley.’ There are 25+ mines and 20 producers found in our region of Polk County alone. Local companies, such as the Mosaic Phosphate Company, employ about 3,000 people in our region.


Polk County’s tourism industry employs 21,000 people and welcomes over 5 million visitors annually. In Lakeland, attractions like Florida Southern College, aka the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, draw in 60,000 visitors every year. Additional draws include events like exhibits at Polk Museum of Art.

Other notable Lakeland industries include financial services, data centers, the flavor and essences industry, software + IT, transportation, and life sciences, according to the Lakeland Economic Development Council.

More from LALtoday