LAKELAND — Publix is the chain that keeps on growing.
Now Florida’s dominant grocer says it will build the headquarters to match. Publix announced Thursday that it will add about 200,000 square feet to its corporate offices and nearly 700 new corporate jobs, too.
"To say that we’re busting at the seams would be an understatement," CEO Todd Jones said during a news conference held at its Lakeland headquarters, which was constructed in 2001.
That’s back when Publix had 650 stores — not the roughly 1,230 it has today. It was when the green banner was in three fewer states, and its sales were less than half of the $34.6 billion it posted last year.
The announcement was made as Publix continues to rapidly grow its number of locations across the southeast. Gov. Rick Scott, who attended the news conference, name-checked Publix founder George Jenkins, who opened the chain’s first super market in Winter Haven in 1940.
"Thank God for Mr. Jenkins because Publix is here in Polk County," Scott said. "To get corporate offices to move is really hard. So you hope to get the ones that are here to grow really well."
The corporate expansion will be aided, in part, by state incentives offered through the Department of Economic Opportunity’s tax refund program.
In order to qualify for those perks, Publix must commit $25 million in capital investment and hire 700 new employees to the corporate office by 2027, according to state records.
Publix has yet to hire an architect or contractor for the project, but spokeswoman Maria Brous said they hope to finish constructon by 2020.
The main office already has about 320,000 square feet of office space. The new addition — which builds out, not up — will make the complex a total of just over 500,000 square feet.
The office now houses about 1,400 employees. Jones said it was designed for 1,200. Brous said the type of jobs that the 700 new hires will fill haven’t been determined yet, but the positions will be added across all divisions of the corporate office. The 700 new jobs will also pay an average salary of $46,000, as required by the state incentive program.
"We look for not only what makes best sense for our associates and our consumers, but also for our continued growth," Brous said. "Incentives help makes those decisions."
Since last summer alone, Publix has opened 10 stores in its latest frontier, Virginia. In addition to Florida, Publix has super markets in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
"These additional jobs will help us support our store associates as they continue to provide the premier service our customers expect," Jones said.
Following the news conference, company officials welcomed attendees to the office’s main lobby where Jenkins’ signature Publix jacket is on display. They had an edible model of what the renovated headquarters will look like.
It was, of course, made out its bakery’s signature butter cream cake.
Contact Sara DiNatale at email@example.com. Follow @sara_dinatale