Collier County commissioners have given longtime Immokalee vegetable grower, Florida Specialties Inc., the green light for the company to start building a new processing plant. Commissioners agreed to sidestep their usual rules and issue a building permit for the company’s new processing plant – before a site development plan is reviewed and approved, putting the project on a fast track. Once the plant is near completion, a temporary certificate of occupancy may be issued to allow the company to get up and running sooner in the new 22,000-square-foot building, as long as there are no safety concerns.
With a target date of Nov. 1 for the new plant to be fully operational, the company plans to triple its capability to process and package fresh vegetables. The plant will package 12-ounce microwavable bags of green beans for grocery stores, as well as larger 2- or 5-pound bags of fresh vegetables for national suppliers that distribute food to schools, senior centers, and the military. In addition to processing its own vegetables, Florida Specialties will process others, too, so processing can be done year-round.
Florida Specialties has about 100 employees. The new facility is expected to create 50 to 60 jobs once it reaches full capacity.
In April, county commissioners approved incentives to encourage the company to expand. Florida Specialties is eligible to receive $75,000 for the first 25 jobs it creates and up to $25,000 to help it pay for broadband and video technology that will make it possible for buyers to view their orders as they are processed.
The company is investing more than $1 million in new equipment for processing, according to estimates provided by the Economic Development Council.