The who’s who and what’s what of Lakeland’s economy: Meet the top employers and industries

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


Downtown Lakeland

Photo by @emnoel_

Table of Contents

More than 339,000 people (and thousands of businesses) contribute to the Lakeland metro area’s economy. But have you ever wondered about Swan City’s heaviest hitters?

Consider this Lakeland Business 101 — your guide to five of our region’s 10 key industries and 15 major employers.

Note: When we say the Lakeland metro area, that refers to Polk County.

The key industries

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

Lakeland Linder Airport

Photo via @wacokitchenfl

Here are the 10 targeted industries that drive the Lakeland metro area’s economy, based on data from the Lakeland Economic Development Council (LEDC).


Thanks to Lakeland Linder International Airport, more than 60 enterprises utilize Lakeland as their flight zone. From the NOAA Hurricane Hunters to Amazon Air to Avelo Airlines, these businesses have partnered with our airport to facilitate transportation needs.

Lakeland has also seen a resurgence of aviation training for future pilots, including partnerships with Southeastern University and Polk State College. Don’t forget — Lakeland also hosts the annual SUN ’n FUN Aerospace Expo, one of the largest air shows in the world.

Medical device packaging

Lakeland continues to be one of the leading innovators in device packaging and sterilization. Lakeland-based companies like Avantor (formerly MESM) and SteriPack are driving job generation and growth opportunities for the city.

Healthcare and life sciences

Lakeland Regional Health and Watson Clinic are just two of the local organizations that employ 20,000 individuals. Additionally, new healthcare innovations are constantly on the horizon, thanks to the excellent higher education institutions here.

Take Assure Infusions, for example. This pharmaceutical manufacturing company will soon open a 60,000-sqft facility to create medical fluids for local healthcare operations. In higher education, Florida Polytechnic University students used 3D printers to construct shields for healthcare workers in 2020. Lakeland’s award-winning hospitals and medical facilities regularly attract new physicians to the area.

Boxes stacked on industrial shelves inside a fluorescent lit warehouse.

Your package could come from an Amazon Fulfillment Center near you.

Photo by @thedanallenn

Supply chain and logistics

In 2020, Amazon signed a lease for a 700,000-sqft space in Lakeland, and the tech company created around 500 new jobs at its even larger facility in Auburndale. Along with Amazon, companies like Pepsi, Rooms To Go, and Walmart have also opened up area warehouses in recent years, bringing industry jobs to over 12,500.

Lakeland and Polk County have been referred to as the distribution heart of the state due to their 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.

Data centers

Ever wondered where all of our digital information is stored? Data centers (aka buildings that house computer systems and telecommunications) play an important role in multiple industries by storing information and consulting on disaster preparedness + recovery for large corporations. Some Lakeland-area companies include Cologix and Inland Fiber & Data.

Financial services

Companies like AgAmerica, Allen and Company, and Summit Consulting drive Lakeland’s financial services industry. Lockheed Martin employs more than 300 Lakelanders to handle the company’s back-end accounting.

Software and IT

According to the Central Florida Development Council, the tech field has one of the highest demands. In 2020, information technology produced $200 million in GDP for Polk County. Presently, 4,000+ Lakelanders work in the industry.

The industry continues to generate economic value as more IT/tech-related companies make the Lakeland area their homes. These include network support company Boring Business Systems and IT service provider Alltek.

Renderings of what the Citrus Innovation Center at Florida Polytechnic University will look like

A first look at the plans for the Citrus Innovation Center

Rendering provided by Ryan Companies US, Inc.

Flavor and essences

It’s no secret that we love oranges in Florida, but did you know that our county was one of the leaders in citrus production for years?

This standing has attracted international flavor and essence companies like Treatt and International Flavors & Fragrances to Lakeland, making it one of only two areas in the US with this industry, alongside New Jersey. Companies in this field use citrus by-products for everything from cosmetics and perfume to alcohol, rubber, and textiles.

Corporate headquarters

You might actually work in one of these. Large corporations like Publix Super Markets, Inc., Bank of Central Florida, and more have based their corporate offices in Lakeland. Publix is the largest private employer in the state, and it stuck around after it got its start here in Polk County nearly 100 years ago.

Value-added manufacturing

Businesses like Refresco and Pepperidge Farm have made Lakeland a manufacturing boomtown. In fact, Lakeland is adding more than 1 million sqft of manufacturing and warehouse space yearly, equating to roughly 30 million sqft overall.

It’s no surprise, then, that the Lakeland Metro Area was recently ranked No. 8 in the nation for manufacturing jobs. More than 14,000 Lakelanders work in the manufacturing industry for companies like Brew Hub, Harrell’s, and more.

The major players

A large glass building.

Publix Headquarters

Photo by @publix

Now that we’ve established the major industries, we bet you’re curious about specific names. Whether you’re job hunting (or just “casually prospecting”), here are 15 major employers — all that employ more than 400 workers on average, courtesy of the LEDC.

8,000+ employees | Manufacturing and Distribution | Search jobs
Where shopping is a pleasure. Publix remains the largest employee-owned grocery chain in the United States, and it’s the largest private employer in both Lakeland and the state of Florida. Publix is one of the 10 largest-volume supermarket chains in the country, employing more than 255,000 people in total.

Lakeland Regional Health
6,000+ employees | Healthcare | Search jobs
Originally named the Morrell Memorial Hospital back in 1916, Lakeland Regional Health (LRH) serves as the fifth largest hospital in Florida with medical personnel practicing in more than 25 specialties. The facilities feature modern, state-of-the-art equipment for innovative medical practice.

One of the latest employee growth categories for LRH is the addition of the Graduate Medical Education program, which brought in an additional 76 medical residents across eight specialties in July 2023 (plus the next class who will join later this year). At full capacity, the residency program will have 199 residents learning their craft and improving access to healthcare in Lakeland each year.

3,300 employees | Insurance | Search jobs
One of this insurance company’s 17 corporate offices across the country is right here in Lakeland. We wonder if the gecko ever stops by for a visit.

Lakeland City Hall sign in grass and flowers in front of building

City employees work all over town, from City Hall to local libraries.

Photo by LALtoday

City of Lakeland
2,800+ employees | Public Administration | Search jobs
The City of Lakeland serves and preserves, while inspiring strong communities. Its employment opportunities include various departments like Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Arts + Community and Economic Development, plus Lakeland Electric and the fire and police departments.

Amazon and Amazon Air Hub
2,000+ employees | Distribution | Search jobs
Amazon’s fast deliveries and reliable inventory are a home staple for many Lakelanders. If you’ve ever wondered where your orders are fulfilled, take a look at the company’s Amazon Air Hub and 1 million-sqft warehouse on County Line Road.

Watson Clinic
1,800+ employees | Healthcare | Search jobs
Watson Clinic has offered quality medical services since 1941. Providing walk-in, after-hours, and weekend care, the company’s hospital-based doctors at Lakeland Regional Health are also available around the clock to offer emergency services and special care.

A large semi-truck with Saddle Creek Logistics Services' logo on the side outside of a distribution center. On the rear are the words "Join Us Today" and a link to Saddle Creek's career website.

Keep an eye out for Saddle Creek Logistics Services trucks around Polk County.

Photo by Saddle Creek Logistics Services

Saddle Creek Logistics Services
1,200+ employees | Logistics | Search jobs
In business for more than 50 years, Saddle Creek continues to build customized supply chain solutions for thousands of clients. The company distributes for subscription box companies, e-commerce retailers, direct sellers, and more all over the United States.

Southeastern University
1,000+ employees | Education | Search jobs
SEU is known as one of the fastest-growing private universities in the country. The school, which was originally founded in Alabama before relocating to Lakeland in 1946, provides 70+ undergraduate degrees available in traditional, evening, and online formats.

Rooms To Go
800+ employees | Distribution | Search jobs
Rooms To Go has a 2.5 million-sqft warehouse located in Lakeland. The company provides furniture and delivery services to homes and businesses across the US.

Advance Auto Parts
600+ employees | Manufacturing | Search jobs
Offering a wide variety of accessories, equipment, and mechanical services for your vehicle, Advance Auto Parts employs Lakelanders in both its retail stores and warehouses.

Florida Southern College
500+ employees | Education | Search jobs
Voted the No. 6 most beautiful college campus in the South by Southern Living, Florida Southern College is a fast-growing liberal arts college that has more than 2,800 enrolled students per year.

Exterior view of the Summit Consulting building in downtown Lakeland, FL

Pro tip: Summit Consulting opens its parking garage to the public on nights + weekends.

Photo by LALtoday

Summit Consulting
500+ employees | Consulting | Search jobs
Summit Consulting provides worker’s compensation services across the southeast. In 2022, all employees moved into a large building in downtown Lakeland overlooking Lake Mirror. Fun fact: The company was formed at a kitchen table in Lakeland in the late 1970s.

Primo Water
500+ employees | Customer contact | Search jobs
Serving as a reliable purified water provider and delivery service, Primo currently provides customer care services from its Lakeland campus.

Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits
500+ employees | Distribution | Search jobs
Feeling thirsty? The drinks at your local bar could have been supplied by Southern Glazer’s. This distribution company provides wine and spirits to 45 US markets, plus Canada.

400+ employees | Healthcare | Search jobs
For more than 30 years, WellDyne has provided innovative strategies for mobile pharmacy services and also has a wholly-owned specialty pharmacy.

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