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Highland Corp. to move 215 jobs from Polk County to Plant City

One of the largest industrial leases ever signed in Tampa Bay will shift more than 215 jobs from Polk County to Plant City this fall.

Highland Packaging Solutions, which manufactures food containers and labels, plans to move its operations from Mulberry to Plant City in September or October.

CEO Steve Maxwell said Highland is relocating engineers, pressmen and other "very good jobs" to Plant City. The firm has about 214 full-time workers, a number that reaches 280 when seasonal workers are included. He said the move does not involve new hiring.

Maxwell and his wife, Beverly, both grew up in Plant City.

"We are coming home," he said.

Highland spent about two years looking for new space. Maxwell declined to provide more detail until the move is completed.

Highland produces the plastic clamshells, mesh baskets and corrugated boxes used to ship strawberries, tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables. The firm also has the ability to label more than 3 million clamshells per day for just-in-time deliveries, enough to stuff seven semitrailers.

Highland ships its products throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America and Europe, according to its website.

The firm will use more than 240,000 square-feet of industrial space on Gordon Food Service Drive.

Highland will take over space being used by Albertsons as a distribution center for its 17 Florida stores. Albertsons announced last month that it plans to close 13 stores, and 60 employees will lose their jobs at the facility.

CBRE, a commercial real estate firm, represented Highland in the deal. Rick Narkiewicz, first vice president, described the deal as "significant" for the region.

He pointed out that eight facilities with more than 150,000 square-feet were available a year ago in the east Hillsborough market. The figure has dropped to three, and rents are climbing, he added.

"The proof is in the statistics," he said. "This is a major deal for our market. Employers looking to move here have fewer choices. "

Plant City's tax base could rise if Highland purchases new equipment, said City Manager Gregory Horwedel. Highland was not awarded tax incentives because the move is within Florida borders, he added.

Horwedel lauded the firm for picking Plant City.

"Any job in today's environment is a good thing," he said.

Mark Puente can be reached at mpuente@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.

Highland Corp. to move 215 jobs from Polk County to Plant City 05/02/12 [Last modified: Thursday, May 3, 2012 12:19am]
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