Three manufacturing companies have selected Haines City and its rail spur to locate new facilities and use the CSX rail system there, a move that will bring to life the 2.8 miles that have sat idle for 16 years.
The companies, which have not been announced yet, are in negotiations with developer Steve Whitley to lease or buy some of the 40 acres he purchased in March, Whitley told GrowthSpotter. The land was purchased under the name Detour Road Land Company in two parcels for $1.41 million and $1.59 million, according to Polk County land records. Whitley, principal at Winter Park-based Whitley Capital, said another 40 acres is under contract from Mina Grove Inc.
A lease agreement likely will be the first signed, and in the next week, Whitley said. He declined to name any of the companies.
Economic Development Council President Cyndi Jantomaso told GrowthSpotter the companies are in industries that need plastic pellets or pulp and need to bring in items in bulk by rail “to make whatever it is they are making in manufacturing, and they send it out on trucks.”
One of the companies will need about 125 employees per shift, Jantomaso said. The City Rail Spur, as it’s known, connects its industrial park to the CSX mainline. The spur is located off of Bannon Island Road and Bannon Loop Road north of MC Master Concrete Products and west of Carvana.
Land in the Rail Spur is an easy sell now, said Whitley who has been marketing the property with Joe Hills and Josh Lipoff with JLL.
“Good sites with good rail service are very hard to find in Central Florida. I think this is the best one. I also hear that from prospects,” Whitley said.
The importance of rail is because of the heavy materials needed in large quantities and also having an alternative to trucking, Whitley said. “This gives them an alternative to using tractor trailers on highways. … It gives them some flexibility. There are also a number of industrial companies that can really only be distributed efficiently by rail.” Some materials are so heavy, such as for bottle manufacturers, he said. “Their raw material comes in in large hopper cars. There’s no way they could get that much product delivered efficiently by tractor trailer.”
Haines City also is “a great location for distribution without rail” because of its proximity to the I-4 corridor and U.S. 27. “We hear from prospects – they want alternatives to sitting on I-4 all day.”
“It’s exciting to hear about projects in the pipeline,” Jantomaso said. “It has been a long time coming.” It is a joint effort of planning and marketing by Whitley, his investors, Haines City, the EDC and CSX, she said. “We have just such a great team together right now.”
Haines City also purchased three sites in the area in the spring to create a full industrial park located off of Scenic Highway/S.R.17, Jantomaso said. The city bought the sites for $1.5 million, $1.48 million and $1.48 million, north of Sofidel tissue paper distribution center, south of Haines City High School and east of the CSX tracks. Sites to the east and west of the Haines City property belong to Sofidel and Sun Orchard Real Estate, according to property records.
Negotiations with the city are underway for expansion and retention of existing industrial park companies, Jantomaso said.
Among the companies already in the area are an Aldi distribution center, Duke Energy, Carvana distribution center and Sofidel tissue paper distribution center. None of these use the rail, Jantomaso said.