When Publix built its gleaming green, three-story 320,000-square-foot headquarters off Polk Parkway in Lakeland in 2001 to house 800 corporate workers, the Lakeland-based grocery chain’s 650 stores across four states employed about 120,000 people and generated $15.3 billion in annual revenues.
Publix now operates 1,230 stores in seven states — from Key West to Spotsylvania, Va. — employs more than 193,000 people with $34.6 billion in annual revenues and its corporate campus near Lakeland Linder Airport houses more than 1,400 workers.
"To say that we’re busting at the seams would be an understatement," says Publix President and CEO Todd Jones.
The Publix CEO, joined by Gov. Rick Scott and other state and local dignitaries, attended a Thursday news conference where the grocery giant announced it will add 190,000-square-feet to its crescent-shaped headquarters building by 2020.
The $28 million expansion will be boosted by $4.2 million in performance-based state and local incentives coordinated through Enterprise Florida. To qualify for the subsidies, Publix’s renovated headquarters must add 700 new corporate jobs with an average annual salary of $43,500 — 15% higher than the average salary in Polk County — by 2027.
“We appreciate Publix’s commitment and investment in Florida,” Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Director Cissy Proctor says. “Publix’s decision to expand its headquarters and create 700 new jobs for hardworking Florida families proves that our state’s commitment to developing a competitive business-friendly environment is working.”
The package includes $3.5 million in tax refunds over 10 years from the state’s Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund Program that requires local governments to contribute one-fifth of the subsidies, and nearly $1 million in direct incentives from Polk County and the city of Lakeland.
If Publix fills its end of the bargain within a decade, the $4.2 million incentive package would be the largest ever granted under the Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund Program.
Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous could not say when, exactly, the project will begin, noting it will soon accept bids from architects and construction contractors. The expansion should be completed within two years, she adds.
The 700 new hires will be added across all divisions of the corporate office. “These additional jobs will help us support our store associates as they continue to provide the premier service our customers expect," said Jones, who began his Publix career as a bagger nearly 40 years ago before being named CEO in May 2016.
Established in 1930 by George Jenkins — still referred to as “Mr. George” — when the 22-year-old opened a 27-by-65 foot store in Winter Haven, Publix has been headquartered in Lakeland since 1940 when he mortgaged an orange grove to build Florida's first supermarket.
Publix has been synonymous with Lakeland ever since.
“Publix consistently enhances the culture of Lakeland and has done so for 88 years,” Lakeland Mayor Bill Mutz said. “Its pursuit of excellence in corporate leadership and stellar retail customer service raises the shopping experience for the rest of us.”
Scott, meanwhile, praised the expansion as an example of how government can partner with private enterprise to create jobs.
"Thank God for Mr. Jenkins because Publix is here in Polk County. To get corporate offices to move is really hard. So you hope to get the ones that are here to grow really well,” Scott said. “Publix is one of Florida’s greatest success stories, and we’re proud of their growth.”