Previously code named “Project Sugar Cane,” Florida Caribbean Distillers, a local manufacturing and distilling company, has plans for a three-phase project that could yield approximately 800,000 square feet of advanced manufacturing, and a potential creation of more than 500 new jobs. To facilitate the project, on December 4, 2019, the Winter Haven City Commission approved the sale of surplus city-owned property to the company.


In a December City of Winter Haven Commission meeting, Commissioners voted 5-0 to approve a naming rights partnership with AdventHealth for the organization to become the official naming rights partner for the new Winter Haven Fieldhouse and Conference Center – soon to be the AdventHealth Fieldhouse and Conference Center.  The AdventHealth Fieldhouse will serve as the practice facility for the Lakeland Magic and will host Lakeland Magic home practices and several team related events.


The 14-member team is developing a rover for the Florida Space Institute as part of Florida Polytechnic University’s yearlong capstone design program.  It pairs teams of seniors with corporate and research partners to tackle real-world engineering projects.  This and other capstone projects will be displayed near the end of the spring semester. Some of the other projects include a robotic palm tree trimmer, a non-invasive water flow sensor, and a wearable locator for residents in assisted living facilities.


United Way of Central Florida has partnered with Lakeland Regional Health and Coalition on Injury Prevention of Polk County to provide children with free bicycle helmets on Tuesday, November 26. “Lids for Kids” was at Family Fundamentals in Lakeland. Certified helmet fitters  provided children with perfectly fitted helmets at no cost.


Polk County Public Schools broke ground on a new high school in Davenport in December.  The new school is scheduled to open in August 2021 and will accommodate 2,500 students.  It will offer programs in the fine arts, hospitality and hotel management, technology, computer modeling and gaming. The new $85 million school is being funded through impact fees and revenue from the county’s half-cent sales tax for education, which was renewed in 2018.


Polk County Sheriff’s Office undercover drug trafficking investigation resulted in 7 arrests; 139 pounds of methamphetamine seized, and 5 ½ kilos of heroin seized.  This is the largest seizure ever of heroin by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.  The street value of the Methamphetamine is approximately $4.6 million.  The street value of the Heroin is $4.9 million. 


Over six days, undercover detectives in the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Vice Unit conducted a special investigation known as “Operation Santa’s Naughty List,” with the intent of identifying and helping victims of human trafficking who might be forced into prostitution.  A total of 124 people were arrested.   Each person who was arrested for prostitution was given immediate access to the members of the anti-trafficking organizations and offered assistance.


Polk State College celebrated nearly 1,200 students who qualified to participate in the 121st commencement at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland.  More than 550 graduates, families and friends, and guests who attended the ceremony received inspiring messages from Polk State President Angela Garcia Falconetti and December 2019 Distinguished Alumna Susan Copeland.

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