TAVARES — Made In The U.S.A. campaigns have been around for a while, often used as a marketing or branding tool for manufacturers. The Made in the U.S.A. label can be a strong selling point that draws on civic pride and the desire among consumers to buy products made by American workers. These campaigns can also help highlight the quality of the products made in American production firms.
Lake County, Florida, has traditionally been known as an agricultural county, although the fast growth in South Lake County and in the city of Clermont has made Lake County seems more like a bedroom community for Orlando in the past decade.
Now Lake County government officials are trying to get out the message that the county’s workers actually have a very diverse skill set, which contributes to the manufacturing of everything from seaplanes to fishing boats. Despite its past history of agriculture being the mainstay of the local economy, Lake County is actually home to buinesses that create plenty of one-of-a-kind products sold both locally and globally.
And Lake County officials want more people to not only recognize the contributions that manufacturers make to the local economy, but also to celebrate it. As part of that, the office of the economic development and promotion agency Elevate Lake is highlighting manufacturers of “Made in Lake” products through a social media marketing campaign in October, which is Manufacturing Month.
What’s The Goal Of the Made In Lake Campaign?
Local businesses that participate in this campaign will be featured on the county’s economic development Facebook page. Those businesses just need to get registered on the Made in Lake website by Sept. 28.
The site was designed with the goal of assisting local companies that manufacture products — and help create good paying jobs in the region.
“The process of registering is simple, fast and free, and will provide significant exposure for businesses and their products,” noted Elisha Pappacoda, Lake County’s communications director, in a news release about this campaign.
Lake County decided to put a spotlight on its growing manufacturing sector, she added, because it’s become one of the most important industries for the local economy. County leaders hope to build on this success and promote new initiatives aimed at strengthening the industry.
The goal of the Made in Lake site, for example, is to “unify the manufacturing industry, market Lake County manufacturing businesses, foster increased pride in the industry and create new connections, with the overall goal of helping to stimulate the economy,” she added.
Businesses are encouraged to tag @ElevateLakeFL and use the hashtag #MadeInLake in social media posts in October and throughout the year.
Brandon Matulka, Executive Director of lake County’s Agency for Economic Prosperity, noted that “Manufacturing in Lake County is a key piece of our economy, and will continue to be a part of creating a more diverse and sustainable future here. The Made in Lake program looks to provide an opportunity for our manufacturing business leaders to benefit from a platform where they can network with other companies and gain exposure both within Lake County and outside of our borders.”
Freeline Media reached out to Matulka to learn more about Lake County’s growing economy, the Made In Lake campaign, and how the county has changed.
How Did Lake County Develop a Manufacturing Base?
Freeline Media: Traditionally, what’s been the top mainstay of the Lake County economy?
Brandon Matulka: Lake County has predominantly been an agricultural community that centered on the citrus industry. However, after the freezes and greening that severely impacted that industry statewide, Lake County has had to shift its focus. Today, major employers in Lake County include the healthcare industry, retail/service entities and the construction industry – all sectors that are fairly common with a fast-growing population base.
FM: Lake County is often viewed as a suburb of Orlando — a bedroom community, in effect. As the county continues to grow, is that changing?
BM: Lake County today would be considered a bedroom community for Orlando, which is comparable to other similarly situated counties that are located near major metro areas. The focus of Elevate Lake is to diversify our economy through the creation and expansion of our commercial and industrial sectors. We continue to strive for development and high wage job growth in Lake County to provide more opportunities locally for our residents to live and work right here.
FM: Today, what role does tourism and housing construction/growth play in the Lake County economy?
BM: Much like the rest of Central Florida and the state, tourism plays a large role within our economy. We have seen a steady rise in visitors who are seeking to visit the “Real Florida.”
Lake County boasts hundreds of lakes and rivers, miles of beautiful trails, a strong family orientation, an emphasis on health and wellness – all while maintaining a small community feel with big city amenities at its fingertips.
From some areas of South Lake County, Disney World and Universal Studios can be as quick as a 15 to 30 minute-drive. It’s the perfect place for people seeking a quieter, more affordable way of life who also want convenient access to amenities like the coastal beaches, theme parks and major airports.
South Lake County offers a unique quality of life, with a large amount of housing options, and is also home to a diverse business community. There are two areas currently master planned in this area – the Hills of Minneola, which includes 4,200 residential units and is within the city limits of Minneola, and Wellness Way, which is capped at approximately 16,000 residential units. Wellness Way is located in the southern portion of Lake County, bordered on by Orange County’s Horizon West and U.S. 27.
FM: South Lake County off U.S. 27 has grown dramatically in the past decade, going from citrus groves to new communities like Cagan Crossing. How is that impacting the county’s overall economy?
BM: In South Lake County and Lake County in general, growth is happening all over. In terms of continued growth, the Four Corners area of Lake County has been growing steadily, which is evident when you take into consideration the opening of a satellite hospital facility in the unincorporated area.
That facility is an expansion of South Lake Hospital (located in Clermont) and was constructed to meet the growing and future needs of the community there. Other areas that Lake County is focused on in terms of growth are the Wellness Way Urban Service Area which opened for development in December of 2017, as well as the new Minneola Interchange of Florida’s Turnpike and the land surrounding the new interchange (Hills of Minneola).
FM: Why did the county government decide recently to put a focus on manufacturing?
BM: Manufacturing has long been an important part of the Lake County economy, as well as a focus for Elevate Lake. Over the past couple of years we have looked at new and improved ways for how we can support manufacturing here in Lake County by focusing on attracting and retaining manufacturing businesses, expanding education programs, and promoting resources that are available within the industry.
We have rolled out several social media campaigns during Manufacturing Month highlighting our Lake County manufacturers, worked on increasing our presence with entities like MACF and Florida Makes, improve and promote the ‘Made in Lake’ website, and create opportunities for our student population to experience the new Lake Technical College – Center for Advanced Manufacturing.
October is Manufacturing Month, and as part of that, Lake County will highlight the contributions that manufacturers make to the local economy through a social media marketing campaign called Made In Lake.
Local businesses are encouraged to participate in this campaign by registering on the Made in Lake website, madeinlake.com by Sept. 28.
The Lake County government offices are at 315 W. Main St. in Tavares. To learn more, call 352-343-9609.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the terrifying book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com..