More than 232,400 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
Here are the 10 targeted industries that drive the Lakeland metro area’s economy, based on data from the Lakeland Economic Development Council (LEDC).
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 Stryker are driving job generation and growth opportunities for the city.
Healthcare and life sciences
Big names including Lakeland Regional Health, Watson Clinic, and the new iteration of Orlando Health are just some of the residing organizations that employ 20,000 locally. 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. Lakeland’s award-winning hospitals and medical facilities regularly attract new physicians to the area.
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 upcoming 1 million-sqft facility in Auburndale. Along with Amazon, IKEA, Pepsi, and Walmart have also opened up area warehouses in recent years, bringing industry jobs to over 12,500. Swan City 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.
Thanks to Lakeland Linder International Airport, 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 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.
Ever wondered where all of that 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 and recovery for large corporations. Some Lakeland-area companies include ABC Domes, Cologix, and Inland Fiber & Data.
Companies like AgAmerica, Allen and Company, and Summit Consulting drive Lakeland’s financial services industry. Lockheed Martin employs more than 300 Lakelanders, with their Lakeland office handling all of 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 and continues to generate economic value as more IT/tech-related companies make the Lakeland area their homes, 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. Presently, 2,200+ Lakelanders work in the industry.
Flavor and essences
It’s no secret that we love oranges in Florida, but did you know that for years, our county was one of the leaders in citrus production? This standing has attracted international flavors and essence companies like Frutarom and IFF 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.
You might actually work in one of these. Large corporations like Publix Super Markets, Inc., Bank of Central Florida, MidAmerica, Watkins Associated Industries, and more have corporate offices in Lakeland.
Businesses like Publix and Pepperidge Farm have made 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. It’s no surprise, then, that the Lakeland Metro Area was recently ranked No. 8 in the nation for manufacturing jobs by Brookings Institute. Over 14,000 Lakelanders work in the manufacturing industry for companies like Frinsa, Brew Hub, Harrell’s, and more.
The major players
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. It is Lakeland’s largest private employer, and the franchise was originally founded right here in Polk County — Winter Haven, to be exact — in 1930. Publix is one of the 10 largest-volume supermarket chains in the country, employing over 200,000 people in total.
Lakeland Regional Health
6,000+ employees | Healthcare | Search jobs
Originally named the Morrell Memorial Hospital back in 1916, Lakeland Regional Health 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 will bring in an additional 76 medical residents across eight specialties starting in July 2023. At full capacity, the residency program will have 199 residents learning their craft and improving access to healthcare in Lakeland each year.
3,800 employees | Insurance | Search jobs
Just wait right there, because the next 15 minutes could save you 15% or more on your car insurance… That’s right — GEICO, which holds 17 corporate offices across the country, has an office here in Lakeland. This company continues to provide career opportunities for locals, giving us more than one reason to love that iconic green gecko.
City of Lakeland
2,800+ employees | Public Administration | Search jobs
From Parks and Recreation and Lakeland Electric to Community and Economic Development and the Lakeland Fire and Lakeland Police Departments, the City of Lakeland serves and preserves, while inspiring strong communities.
Amazon and Amazon Air Hub
2,500+ employees | Distribution | Search jobs
Amazon’s fast deliveries and reliable inventory of price-matching products is a house 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.
1,800+ employees | Healthcare | Search jobs
Watson Clinic has offered medical services of the highest quality since 1941. Providing walk-in, after-hours, and weekend care, the company’s hospital-based doctors at Lakeland Regional Health are also available on-call, around the clock to offer emergency services and special care. Watson Clinic continues to grow; it currently employs more than 1,800 people.
1,000+ employees | Education | Search jobs
Known as one of the fastest-growing private universities in the country, SEU employs more than 1,000 personnel. The school, which was originally founded in Alabama before relocating to Lakeland in 1946, provides more than 70 undergraduate degrees available in traditional, evening, and online formats.
Saddle Creek Logistics Services
1,200+ employees | Logistics | Search jobs
Serving for over 50 years, Saddle Creek continues to build customized supply chain solutions for thousands of clients. The company distributes to subscription box companies, e-commerce retailers, direct sellers, and more all over the United States.
Rooms To Go
800 employees | Manufacturing | 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, Advanced Auto Parts employs 615 people across Lakeland and Polk County.
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 employs 550 people and has more than 2,800 enrolled students per year.
500+ employees | Consulting | Search jobs
Providing worker’s compensation services across the Southeast, Summit Consulting proudly employs 540 people in its ever-growing corporation. Fun fact: The company was formed at a kitchen table in Lakeland in the late 1970s.
400+ employees | Healthcare | Search jobs
For more than 30 years, WellDyne has provided leading innovative strategies for mobile pharmacy services and has a specialty pharmacy for those who require specialized services. Its Lakeland headquarters has more than 425 employees.
MidState Machine & Fabrication
400+ employees | Manufacturing | Search jobs
Founded in 1973, MidState Machine & Fabrication equips clients with its machinery manufacturing, industrial maintenance, and service solutions. The company currently has 400 employees at its Lakeland office.