Business View Magazine September 2018

92 93 BARTOW, FLORIDA In the early 1900s, the area around Bartow became the hub of the phosphate industry in the United States. “From an historical standpoint, it’s been all about phosphate,” says City Planner, Bob Wiegers. “Over the years, the phosphate com- panies have merged, and come and gone, but there’s been phosphate mining going on in this area since the 1920s. Today, the major driver in the local area is a company called Mosaic. Mosaic doesn’t necessarily mine in and around Bartow, anymore, because a lot of the area is already mined out. But it’s still mining to the south of us and the west of us and they still bring a lot of the mined ore through Bartow to their processing plant which is just west of town. So, it’s still phos- phate mining, but from an industrial standpoint.” Citrus farming and cattle ranching were also important parts of the city’s livelihood, but per- haps the most dominant force in the economy of Bartow, today, is city, county, and state gov- ernment. As the capital of a county with over 650,000 people, Bartow has an unusually large number of government jobs. In addition to city and county offices, there is also a number of regional, state, and federal offices located within the city limits. Nine of the 17 largest employers in Bartow are government entities. The largest by far is the Polk County School Board with over 12,000 employees. Other county en- tities which employ many people in the Bartow area include the County Commission, the Sheriff’s Office, the Clerk of Courts, the Tax Collector, and the Property Appraiser. The Florida Department of Transportation District One office is located in Bartow and is responsible for southwest Florida’s transportation needs. Bartow’s current population is about 18,300, and for many years, the city grew slowly because, unlike a few of its nearby cities, such as Lakeland and Winter Haven, Bartow has had little land available for residential development, as much of the area was still devoted to mining and agri- culture. “The other thing that affects us is Interstate 4, which goes from Tampa all the way to Daytona Beach and that’s the big growth corridor,” Wiegers adds. “So, there are a lot of communities in Polk County that are recipients of a tremendous amount of growth because of being close to I-4. We’re not close enough to get a lot of benefit.We’re not a commuter town from inside/outside; we get a lot of commuters, outside/in.” That, however, is beginning to change, with the annexation of approximately 40 square miles over the last two decades which the city is planning to utilize for residential, commercial and industrial, as well as additional recreational and open